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RECARO Automotive Seating addresses the special requirements of autonomous driving in China

What role will the driver’s seat play in the future? What kind of special requirements of autonomous driving in China does it need to meet? The performance seat specialists at RECARO Automotive Seating is putting the spotlight on this topic at Auto Shanghai 2017.

SHANGHAI, April 19, 2017 – The development of autonomous driving will be a game changer for the requirements of vehicle interiors and seats. RECARO Automotive Seating is prepared to approach this challenge from a uniquely strong position in terms of the Chinese market.

“Especially in Chinese megacities and urban agglomerations, meeting the demand for individual mobility will be focused on electric solutions,” said Markus Kussmaul, executive director the Adient’s specialty seating group and responsible for the worldwide business of RECARO Performance Car Seating.

With performance cars, the driver has to sit deep and low in the car, which is also the case with electric cars. Following the requirements of optimal economy of space, RECARO seats are developed with very low block dimensions. This allows electrical battery packs to be installed inside the vehicle’s underbody, without seats interfering with the roof. RECARO Automotive Seating also fulfills the requirements for light, ultra-slim seats, which can contribute to electric mobility in urban environments – while offering the highest level of safety, modularity and design freedom.

Self-driving vehicles can be experienced in a variety of applications. Throughout the world, manufacturers are testing driverless cars on highways and in urban settings.

GPS, cameras, radar, and lasers make it possible – and at ever shorter intervals, new, innovative technologies are presented that provide anticipatory driving, perfect evasive maneuvers, or brake the car in a controlled manner.

However, in the vision of autonomous driving, human beings are not dispensable in the long term. It is generally believed that full automation of vehicles is not likely to be feasible until 2030 or later. Until then, according to the assessment, the driver will always intervene if required by the traffic situation.

“In all these scenarios, the driver seat, the central link between man and machine, is too rarely considered in our view,” said Kussmaul. “It plays an even more decisive role with autonomous driving than with a conventional car.”

According to Kussmaul, it makes sense to turn the seat away from the steering wheel while the car is driving itself to allow direct access to a table and for resting positions. In riskier driving situations, the driver seat has to be put back into a correct steering position quickly and reliably.

The developers in the passenger car seat area of RECARO Automotive Seating have been working on these challenges for years. The crucial issue: the connectivity of the seat, which must be included in the exchange of data in the vehicle so that the seat can be quickly and automatically adjusted to current requirements.

A prerequisite is the electrification of the seat, whose adjustment components must be completely operated by electric motors. Even features such as seat extensions, leg rests, individual back padding, climate control, and massage functions are possible in this way. The same applies to warning elements such as a vibrating seat that could indicate changing traffic situations to the driver. Or to a function that quickly aligns the seat into the direction of travel and brings it into the steering position.

However, the key issue in vehicles remains safety: Will it really be possible to rotate the driver seat or remove the driver from the steering wheel?

“There are still no restraint systems that would reliably protect people seated transversely to the direction of a crash against serious injury,” said Kussmaul. “And it is unclear how lawmakers and insurance providers will position themselves in terms of a framework for self-driving cars. We therefore want to discuss with customers at Auto Shanghai their ideas on the subject – and how the open questions relating to passenger car autonomy should be dealt with.”