As part of an effort to continually improve the way their customers interact with vehicles, the General Motors Human Factors group conducts about 100 studies globally each year. The team looks at things such as door handle and switch placement and sometimes uses younger subjects who are in for Take Your Child to Work Day day to compile feedback.
One of the things the Human Factors group improved on using younger subjects was “the puke zone,” a measurement to determine the ideal placement of the DVD screen to reduce motion sickness. To determine the best spot for the screen, the team set the DVD screen up on a track that could slide it fore and aft along the roof of the vehicle. They then recorded the responses of more than 75 kids who were asked when the screen distance was too close or too far away.
“We know through other scientific research that even if our eyes are focused on a fixed point – if we can see the outside passing by in the window – our brain is telling us that we are moving,” said Don Shreves, GM Human Factors engineering group manager. “But if our eyes are at a downward angle and do not see the view outside the vehicle, our bodies become sensitive to motion and increase the chance of sickness.”
This year during Take Your Child to Work Day, the Human Factors group conducted a study which focused on the third-row safety belts in the Buick Enclave. They tested buckles with varying angles and stiffness and asked kids to use a five-point scale to compare and rate the ease of fastening the safety belt.
“Our group and research is very data-driven,” said Shreves. “Designing every element to a vehicle comes down to millimeters. While a door handle placement or seat switch might feel right to the designing engineer, we come in with data points from real consumer feedback, including kids, to help determine the best location.”