Designing a car for the vertically challenged

Despite the fact that automakers spend a lot of time and money packaging the car’s interior for their range of special dummies, something is missing because most of the cars I encounter have deficiencies when it comes to ergonomics for short people. And I believe that other than VW, for everyone else, its more of an hit and miss affair. So here are a few pointers for automakers.

1. Flat-bottomed steering wheel. Flat bottomed steering wheels should not be in sports cars alone. They provide vital thigh clearance when entry and egress.

Flat bottomed steering wheel

2. Telescopic steering wheel – This is vitally important as well. We shorties are stuck sitting in the fwd most pos. the least you could do is to be able to push the steering wheel as far away as possible.

Telescopic steering wheel

3. Adjustable pedals automakers try to sell this as a convenience option but it enables us to sit further away from the wheel and consequently the airbag.

Adjustable pedals

4. Low belt line. Have you ever sat in a Range Rover or LR4? You will know exactly what I mean. There is nothing like being able to sit, rest your elbow on the the window sill and be able to see the front edge of your hood.

5. Theater seating. Do you want your rear seat passengers to be claustrophobic, queasy and barf? Of course not. Theater seating means your rear Seat passengers won’t feel like they are receiving, shall we say, cruel and unusual punishment.

Theater seating

6. Low dashboard. This is a no-brainer. Sitting in a car with a high cowl makes you feel like you are sitting in a bathtub.

7. Thin roof pillars- this is a serious safety issue. Thin roof pillars mean you can see well when turning.

8. Smaller side mirrors. Same is the case with mirrors. Large mirrors create a big blind spot specially for the shorter ones. Use smaller mirrors with convex lenses or have a mirror which is away from the door -a la Ferrari Testarossa.

9. Height adjustment for driver AND passenger seats. – this one drives me nuts. Why does the front passenger have to get screwed? Amongst the mass market manufacturers, only VW gets it right. Every time. Even a luxury like the the Lexus CT 200 lacks this feature.

10. Memory seats that slide back when the key is turned off. This is such a simple solution. You have to pull off a Houdini to be able to exit gracefully from a car.

11. High placed audio. It drives me nuts when the HVAC is placed above the stereo while the stereo is buried like a Chilean miner. What is more complicated? Adjusting the temperature or hunting for the NPR show?


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