Child Comfort in Rear Seats of Cars : A seating comfort study of how to improve and evaluate older children’s perceived comfort when riding on a belt-positioning booster
Abstract: During the last couple of years several studies have been conducted to investigate how children move and position during car rides. This in order to map when, and for how long children sit in positions that are not safe as well as to identify the reason for these movements. One of the conclusions is that children do not always sit comfortable in today’s belt-positioning boosters and thereby they chose positions that are unwanted for safety reasons. The aim for the master thesis has thereby been to improve seating comfort for children while traveling safely in the rear seat of a car. The target group has been children in ages 5-11 years old with body height 110-145 cm, a Swedish population 50 percentile has been used for the extreme dimensions. The master thesis process is divided in three phases; Discovery, Development and Testing and Evaluation. In the Discovery phase information in the areas child safety, child methodology and comfort was gathered through literature study, interviews with experts, benchmarking and a focus group with parents. As a final step customer needs were formulated. In the Development phase a workshop with children was initially performed to complement the customer needs with inputs from the users. The customer needs were afterwards reformulated into a specification of requirements and five comfort hypotheses. Finally a prototype was developed, designed from the requirements with the purpose to validate the comfort hypotheses, using an anthropometric design method (Osvalder, et al., 2010). In the final phase, Testing and Evaluation, the prototype and reference belt-positioning boosters were evaluated by children in two user studies; one static study and one on road study, to evaluate comfort features and try out different seating comfort evaluation methods. The result is divided into child seating comfort characteristics and child seating comfort methodology guidelines. To assist future development of belt-positioning boosters, seven comfort features are defined to help children ride comfortable in a safe position in the car. Furthermore, 13 child methodology guidelines are formulated to help further seating comfort evaluation with children. Conclusively to make children sit comfortable and safe positioned in the car they should be seated in a belt-positioning booster with headrest, backrest, seat cushion and foot support, the supporting parts need to be perceived as soft around head, back and under the buttock and all parts need to be dimensioned for all children in the target group. The size of the belt-positioning booster and the combination of foam thickness, foam hardness and shape are the main factors for affecting the perceived seating comfort. Furthermore, children shall be included as both design partners and testers during the development of belt-positioning boosters. During the prototype development static comfort evaluation with children should be done repeatedly to verify measurements, shape and foam hardness. To evaluate comfort both static evaluation and on road evaluation should be performed since comfort varies over time. Data should be collected subjectively from children through quantitative methods, such as rating scales, and qualitative methods, such as general questions regarding comfort/discomfort experience. Video observations can identify children’s position during car rides. Different positions can be timed and together with subjective data reasons for repositioning can be identified.
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