• Feb 26th 2008 at 8:28AM
  • 18

Much like the automotive crash test industry utilizes "dummies" of different statures and body weights to simulate different passenger types, Nissan engineers have developed a special suit to "simulate" the elderly. Nissan went to all this trouble because it anticipates that Baby Boomers will soon command a larger share of automotive sales. It's a preemptive plan to design vehicles that accommodate their needs. Well, some of them, as we don't expect in-dash prune juice dispensers anytime soon.

This innovative suit is comprised of several different components that are each designed to restrict physical movement or reduce vision (interestingly enough, donning the suit does not make the wearer crave early bird specials or migrate to Palm Springs). Dark colored glasses simulate the poor vision and gloves simulate reduced dexterity. Casts on on the body also weigh down the wearer's limbs to simulate arthritic pain. Our favorite is the big thick waist belt designed to simulate the "middle aged spread."

[Source: Nissan via WorldCarFans]


Nissan Engineers use Special Suit to Simulate the Elderly

Nissan's 'Perfect Fit' For Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are commanding a bigger share of automotive sales worldwide and Nissan is meeting their needs with some lateral thinking.

Nissan engineers in Japan are using a special 'suit' that simulates the physical effects of ageing. It allows engineers and designers to see car ownership through the eyes of older customers and then alter features to accommodate special needs.

Nissan Design Engineer Etsuhiro Watanabe said, "As we get older, it can become harder to perform physical maneuvers. When it comes to driving, that can mean more difficulty seeing writing on the switch gear, reach and use controls, distinguish colors on navigation equipment or get in and out of seats.

Mr Watanabe said many engineers were in their 20s and 30s and the suits provided an accurate reflection of the daily physical challenges not necessarily experienced by young drivers.

"It's not always practical to recruit older motorists for product research," he said, "so these special suits allow Nissan's engineers and designers to come up with solutions that make car use a safer and more positive experience."

"This is a critical part of our vehicle research and shows Nissan is alert to the changing needs of drivers and at the leading edge of vehicle development."

The suits can simulate poor balance through a raised front-toe design, cataract goggles simulate failing eyesight, casts on the body simulate arthritic pain by making it more difficult to raise arms and legs, and color-deficiency goggles simulate problems distinguishing colors.

Nissan engineers wearing the suits have been experimenting with the location and angles of switches, testing the ease of reading instrument and navigation panels and determining where to locate grips to make it easier to get in and out of a vehicle.

The suits are being used by engineers at the Nissan Technology Center (NTC) outside Tokyo. Work at the Centre accelerates research and advances the engineering of breakthrough technologies for Nissan's next generation of products.

One feature of the suit is a thick waist-belt. About 250 mm wide and 50 mm thick it does an excellent job of duplicating what is euphemistically known as the 'middle aged spread'. The belt makes it harder to enter or exit a car and can even cramp an engineer's movement behind the steering wheel in poorly designed seating.

The special suit also stiffens the engineers' flexibility, particularly with later-in-life susceptible knees and ankles. Restrictions are also created at the elbows using a complex system of levers. Checking on neck movement is also important as it can influence how well a driver is able to use the door mirrors and how easy - or difficult - it is to look back whilst reversing.

Naturally, the research suits also give an insight into problems faced by partially disabled drivers of any age.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Hey, I guess they're right. Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose. I'll be right back. Don't you go dying on me!"
      • 7 Years Ago
      This has been common practice for many auto makers for some time.
        • 7 Years Ago
        That's to simulate being an old lady, rather than an old man.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Lincoln has being using these suits for well over a decade.
      Which should be no suprise if you look over the vehicles they produced over the past decade.

      P.S. I love the LS, but you have to admit the Towncar is just a big sofa for old folks to nap in.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Just go windsurfing for an hour or two when the ambient temperature is 5 deg. Then drive home with your tight 5mm wetsuit still on, cold hands and feet.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'll be 65 in another month. I used to make jokes about old farts such as myself but look at old people differently as I approach their age - you will too. Still I find the above jokes funny and can laugh at myself. I've begun to find a little restriction in my neck movement, and that impacts getting in and out of a low clearance vehicle, but other than that no problems. The suits the mfgr's use are a more scientific method of getting repeatable results than using old people, particularly when everyone is a little different.

      Now I've said it, I think I'll head out for the early bird special. I have to be in bed by eight.

      But times are changing...I ride my ATV 2000 miles last year and power ride my road bike 10 miles, followed by a two mile run - every day. Couldn't snowmobile this year since I broke my collar bone two weeks ago during one of those power rides. Crashed and burned at about 20 MPH. Don't heal like I did at 20.

      Keep those old folks jokes coming.
      • 7 Years Ago
      How about lining up the top of the dashboard with the bi-focal line?

      If you REALLY want to help the elderly, and the general population at large, start by having them re-take their drivers test at 65 and every 3 years after that.

      Maybe then we'll cut down on vehicles being driven through buildings, over sidewalks, or backing up traffic by driving 45 on the interstate.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I know that Ford has been using a suit like this for awhile. Here's an article about it: http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=23730

      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't consider 65 as old. Many people at 65 are in better shape than some younger. I think judgement should be made on a individual basis. I for one ski,play tennis in the 3.5 level 3-4 times wk., Ride a Harley Road King and work out at gym 3-4 times a wk. Their are 50 year olds that can't do that.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I will be 62 in March. Maybe it will be time to turn in my lowered 2001 Acura Integrea GS-R and get something more in keeping with my age - a used Mitsubishi Evo.
        • 7 Years Ago
        At 62, the insurance on one of those things might actually be affordable
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Baby boomers are commanding a bigger share of automotive sales worldwide and Nissan is meeting their needs with some lateral thinking."

      Well, I don't know about the "baby boomers" in Japan...but those in the US probaly are not "commanding" a bigger share of sales, as a senior boomer myself, I plan to buy LESS cars hereon......
      • 7 Years Ago
      The japanese will come up with any reason they can to build some kind of super-suit that gives the wearer special powers. Go Go Geriatric Rangers!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why didn't they just hire a few elderly people to come in and complain about the cars? Hell, they probably would do it for a free trip to the buffet.

        • 7 Years Ago
        Sir, this is Japan we're speaking of.
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