Seats may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of car technology, but unlike living room sofas, car seats can be very sophisticated items.
In the year In the 1960s and 1970s, the opposite was true until some car companies, notably Saab and Volvo, began making dramatic improvements. Due to the freezing Scandinavian winters, both organizations began to look at the value of seat comfort and its impact on driver safety. They hired orthopedic specialists to design the seat and added seat heating, not only for cosiness, but also because heat is healthy for the driver’s back and reduces fatigue. It was advanced thinking then, so how have things improved since then?
The role seats play in reducing fatigue these days means technical upgrades are out of the question, with crash-resistant fixings, integrated seat belts, airbags, high-tech interlayers and fabric coverings and integrated infotainment screens. The pinnacle of seating sophistication is, unsurprisingly, hidden in the back of the most luxurious cars, and the new Bentley Bentayga EWB Airline Seat Specification is one of the latest examples. As well as the hand-stitched loveliness you expect on the outside, the seats’ interiors are a mix of chiropractor’s consulting room and climate lab.
Taking the former second, the seat has an ‘auto-climate system’ incorporating sensors that measure passenger touch temperature and humidity when the temperature reaches 0.1°C every 25 seconds. The passenger controls where they want to be with a choice of seven settings. One of these is neutral, which applies preset algorithms when testing with different passengers. From then on, Bentley says, the seat makes adjustments it knows the passenger needs before they do. Although the heating technology has not changed from previous designs, the new type of cooler can move 80% more air than before.
For some, seat massage systems are as relaxing as a child kicking the back seat, but the Bentley doesn’t have that. Instead, it has something called ‘postural adjustment’ specifically aimed at avoiding fatigue. The system consists of six air pressure zones that adjust the contact pressure between the body and the seat, but in a subtle way, Bentley says. In total, the system can make 177 individual pressure changes in the zones.
The movement consists of three-dimensional rotations using movements developed in collaboration with a chiropractor. From that input, Bentley, along with specialist Comfort Motion Global, developed algorithms and refined the system through scientifically based tests. In studies, dynamically supporting body weight and balancing each person’s weight and shape has been shown to alleviate stress that can lead to what Bentley calls “distraction.”