Aching backs blown up

Dave Wilson highlights a couple of recent developments at Cadillac

Tired of bumpy roads that give you a backache when driving? Tired of spending hours adjusting your car seat, only to find that your partner then changes it back from a comfortable to uncomfortable setting? If you are then you will be pleased to hear that at least one car manufacturer has addressed the problem with a new concept called adaptive seating.

Now available on the Cadillac Seville STS, the system may also soon be deployed by auto manufacturers here in the UK.

In operation, adaptive seating automatically recognises the position of the occupant and adjusts the seat’s support accordingly to custom-fit every individual. At the present time, the technology is optional equipment in the Cadillac STS for both driver and front seat passenger.

Adaptive seating uses a network of 10 air cells, located between the leather upholstery and foam in the seat cushion and back. Sensors attached to these air cells measure internal pressure and supply that information to a control module, which compares the measurements to an optimal pressure pattern stored in its memory. If a discrepancy exists, pressure inside the air cells is adjusted.

The optimal pressure pattern for the seat has been derived through biomechanical studies carried out on a varied range of people of differing shapes and sizes, together with pressure mapping of the seat to establish optimal comfort levels. From this information, a seating comfort algorithm is derived which monitors the cell pressure and adjusts to `known comfort levels’.

On the seat itself, there are three air cells in the lumbar area, one per lateral bolster in the backrest, one per lateral bolster in the bottom cushion; one under the buttocks and one per thigh. The cells under the thighs and in the backrest lateral support bolsters are on a common channel so eight pressure modules serve the 10 cells. The air cells themselves are manufactured from a high quality flexible polyurethane film having an overall finished thickness of less than one millimetre. The individual cell shapes are created by a high frequency welding process.

Air pressure is supplied by an electrically driven compressor mounted in the seat base. The small 12V DC compressor measuring 125mm 3 50mm diameter, weighs approximately 0.250kg and draws a current of approximately 1.5A. The operating noise level within the seat is below 50dB.

The initial adjustment procedure takes 30 to 60s. The system cycles every 4min to adjust air cell pressure as the occupant moves in the seat. An override switch allows customers who prefer more or less lumbar support than in the ideal pattern to adjust support to their preference. When you climb behind the wheel and sit down, the car seat automatically adjusts to your shape and size. More importantly, it continues to monitor and adjust to every movement.

ASCTec, an acronym for Active Surface Control Technology, is the official name for the pneumatically-controlled air support system that has been developed for the Cadillac by McCord Winn Textron. But aside from the automotive business, the developers see other potential applications for the ASCTec too, including: airline seating, office and home furniture, and bedding products. Apparently, the technology has also attracted a great deal of interest from a significant number of consumer product manufacturers as well.

If adaptive seating fails to appeal, then consider another Cadillac exclusive – an in-car massaging system. A single tap on a `power lumbar switch’ built into the dashboard will produce a continuous roller motion that can be interrupted or repeated at any time during the drive. The roller design and placement gently massages back muscles, increasing circulation and relaxing muscle tension, and this results in improved driver comfort and reduced fatigue.

The roller design uses a total of 20 independent massage rollers, which are located in a series of five sets on a massage basket in the seat. The massaging cycle runs continuously for 10min and can be interrupted by pushing the lumbar control down for not more than half a second.

Unfortunately, you can not have both the pneumatic seats and the massager fitted on the same seats at the same time.

INFORMATION: McCord Winn Textron Tel: (603) 624-7300