Friday, April 16, 2010

Nissan works on elderly-friendly vehicles

A big chunk of Nissan vehicle users are those who were born between 1946 and 1964. Nissan Motor Company sees it important that its cars or sport utility vehicles are comfortable enough to accommodate these baby boomers, thus the Japanese automaker incorporates a special “elderly suit” during research and design of its dedicated engineers.

To effectively design Nissan parts and features fit for older people, engineers of Nissan in the Nissan Technology Center (NTC) in Tokyo use special elderly suits. The special elderly suit provides its user with a simulated feeling of what it is like to age. Ageing causes various physical affects and one of which is it limits a person’s normal movements.

“As we get older, it can become harder to perform physical maneuvers,” said Etsuhiro Watanabe, who is the design engineer of Nissan in Japan. “When it comes to driving, that can mean more difficulty seeing writing on the switch gear, reach and use controls, distinguish colors on navigation equipment or get in and out of seats.”

The well-made elder suit imitates poor foot balance, arthritic pain of legs and arms, and stiffness of ankles, ankles, and joints, among others, that affect navigating Nissan parts. Moreover, a 250 mm wide and 50 mm thick belt of the suit provides the feeling of a middle aged spread that makes it difficult to move around. With the suit, an engineer experiences great difficulty and discomfort behind the steering wheel as well as going in and out of the vehicle. Complementing the elder suit is a cataract goggle and a color-deficiency goggles. The former provides the user poor eyesight, while the later brings difficulty in identifying colors.

The suits are very helpful for the company’s engineers, who are mostly in their 20s and 30s, to have an accurate feeling of what is like to age. Such stimulation definitely allows the designers and engineers of Nissan to come up with vehicle features that accommodate these baby boomers. Furthermore, the suits allow the company not to get older drivers to participate in its product research.

“It’s not always practical to recruit older motorists for product research,” said Watanabe, “so these special suits allow Nissan’s engineers and designers to come up with solutions that make car use a safer and more positive experience.”

Aside from the elder users of Nissan vehicles, the suits also provide engineers and designers at NTC to know problems of partially disable drivers regardless of age.

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