Have you ever gotten into a vehicle, and it just didn’t fit you right? Sometimes if you get the seat right, the steering wheel is in the wrong place for you or the pedals are positioned in an uncomfortable way, and your right leg hurts even after a short drive. Mazda is solving these problems with a process we call Human-Centric Design, and it has sparked a revolution in the way every Mazda is made.
“We’ve pursued refreshing, exhilarating driving,” said Norihiro Tomita General Manager, Mazda Vehicle Development Division, “but we didn’t rationalize what exactly makes a driver feel that way.”
For decades Mazda has infused every new model with a quality known as Jinba Ittai – “Horse and rider as one.” When the driver feels as though a vehicle is actually an extension of his or her body, the driving experience has been elevated.
“It used to be that making that feeling of oneness was a really subjective thing,” said Development Engineer Ruben Archilla. “So we decided to look at human needs as the starting point and then figure out how to make the car rather than look at how the car works and trying to figure out how to measure the human response.”
Mazda’s engineers performed a comprehensive study of driver ergonomics to learn how best to create a vehicle that will give drivers the comfort, control and responsive performance necessary to achieve Jinba Ittai.
“Everything boiled down to the driving position,” explains vehicle test engineer Tomonori Otsubo. “Driver placement affects the car’s layout and that involves engine, tires and cabin. If you start with the driver, it means ease of operation and also safer driving.”
Seemingly small factors make a tremendous difference. For example, mounting the accelerator pedal on the floor instead of hanging it from above changes the way the driver’s leg muscles act to control the car, delivering a more relaxed and controlled drive. By changing the relationship of the seat to the dashboard and steering wheel, Mazda engineers improved the driver’s natural ability to look ahead.
“When the driver is seated in the optimal position, it stabilizes their vision,” said development engineer Seishi Nakamura. “If you lack confidence in driving, driving a car with not-so-good vision can be frightening. I want to remove all those anxieties for our customers.”
The most biggest change on the vehicle was moving the front wheels farther forward on the vehicle. In doing so, engineers were about to increase cabin space and allow for a more natural position for the driver. Design engineers also found that the vehicle’s overall balance was improved.
“Pushing the tires to the front created more space,” Tomita explained, “so we could mount a 4-2-1 exhaust system. Getting the tires close to the four corners of the car’s body enhanced the beauty of the car’s stance.”
Every 2017 Mazda vehicle benefits from the human-centric design philosophy. You can see and feel the result of Mazda’s creative and detail-oriented engineering every time you get behind the wheel.