German researchers have created a motion-controlled car seat

Gesture-controlled driver's seat to relieve back problems

A driver’s seat that adjusts its shape and position by the wave of a hand to provide the best ergonomic support for every driver has been developed by German researchers.

The researchers behind the invention hope it will make it easier for drivers to use many already existing comfort-enhancing features of modern car seats designed to reduce back and neck pains.

Many studies have previously confirmed that most drivers, even the professional ones, do not take proper advantage of such features and put too much strain on their back and neck muscles as a result. The reason for that is believed to be the difficult controllability of these features.

“We use a sensor-based gesture control system in the driver‘s seat,“ explained Johannes Ehrlich from the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC. "With the aid of simple hand gestures, the driver can move the seat forward and back, as well as up and down. In addition, he or she can also custom-set the incline of the thigh support and back rest in the same manner.“

The seat is fitted with multiple motion sensors integrated into its synthetic side cover capturing the hand gestures. Additional piezosensors responding to pressure are part of the system.

Proximity sensors, detecting the tiniest changes in electrical fields, can detect the hand motions and translate the signal via specialised software that can determine the direction of the hand motion. 

By brushing forwards or backwards, up or down, or diagonally along the side cover, the driver can make the seat move to provide the best comfort.

To prevent the motion control to be activated involuntarily, the researchers designed the system to be turned on by pushing a button on the side cover.

Once the operator achieves the desired position, the gesture control automatically shuts off as soon as he or she removes the hand away from the sensor area.

In addition, seat positions can be stored through the activation button by pressing several times, which may be particularly useful for business cars used by multiple drivers.

Professional drivers frequently spend about nine hours inside a car. According to insurance agencies, back and neck pains are about their most frequent health problems.

The system, the German researchers believe, could eventually make it into the middle and upper class vehicles as an extra feature to increase driver comfort.

A prototype of the seat will be unveiled at Frankfurt Motor Show later this year.

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