The correct seating position and optimum driving position is very important for motoring safety. It ensures that the driver has proper control of the vehicle and has the best all-round vision. Unfortunately, because human beings come in so many different heights, it is hard to achieve this when designing cockpit areas. To some extent, there are seat and steering wheel adjustment but not all drivers make full use of them to get the right position. Shorter drivers also find it hard to see the bonnet or look backwards.
The EyeCar’s technological solution to this challenge is to have a motorized seat that automatically places the driver’s eyes in the optimum position, while adjusting the steering wheel, foot pedals and even the floor height and centre console. Two separate technologies are used in the EyeCar – the first relying on the unique reflectivity of the eyeball and the second on the body’s water content.
A small videocamera captures an image of the driver’s head and locates the eyes within less than second. Because light levels can be very low, the camera has an infrared beam as well. From the unique reflective pattern on the eyeball, the computer will select a seating height that is correct and then also send signals to adjust the other items.
“We have programmed templates that should cover about 95% of human beings after making extensive comparative studies of human body proportions,” said Christer Gustafsson, a researcher working on the project.
To refine the seating position, the second technology comes into play. This uses a capacitive sensor in the ceiling which measures the electrical field in the area directly above the seat. When this area is filled by a human body, the body’s water content affects the surrounding electrical field and the sensor detects this. From this change, it is possible for the system to determine the distance from the ceiling to the top of the head. Since the location of the eyes in relation to the top of the head is normally quite similar among humans, the seating position is adjusted to place the top of the head about 75 mm from the ceiling to give the best viewing position.
In the prototype (which was a ‘discarded’ concept car created by Volvo’s stylists), there is also another innovation in the design of the centre roof pillar. It is flatter and set further inside the cabin, improving rearward vision along the side of the car significantly.