Mazda has always been fastidious about creating the perfect driving position.
When designing the layout of our vehicles we start with the human being, and place essentials such as the steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal where they are easy to operate in a way that feels natural. This approach also makes driving safer and more enjoyable. All Mazda vehicles aim to provide Jinba-ittai, or “horse and rider as one,” driving and correct driving position forms the very foundation of achieving this feeling of unity. That’s why this “human-centered” philosophy is at the root of every layout and design decision we make.
Three steps to achieving the ideal driving position
Human beings are very adaptable and can use almost any tool to certain extent. However, if people must adjust themselves to the tool, rather than the other way around, it leads to stress on the body which makes it hard to perform to the best of one’s abilities and even increases the chances of making mistakes. Mazda engineers take a three-step approach to creating the ideal driving position.
Measuring the ideal driving position
The first step was to specify what defines the ideal driving position. The human body can move more quickly and accurately when starting from a relaxed position, free from any unnecessary tension in the muscles. Importantly, such a position can also be maintained for long periods without fatigue. In other words, the ideal driving position is easy to maintain and helps you to react accurately and appropriately at a moment’s notice. We took this relaxed body posture as our ideal driving position and measured the angle at which each joint is held.
Another important consideration is line of sight. All drivers change their line of sight depending on circumstances, looking further ahead when travelling on the highway and focusing more on the near-distance when driving around town. Positioning the driver’s eye-point in within the “Eye-line Zone”—the area in which the driver has a good view of the road both immediately in front of the vehicle and into the distance—is a key element of Mazda’s ideal driving position.
Having defined what the ideal driving position is, the second step is to place vehicle-control devices in locations that enable this posture. For example, the accelerator is located precisely where the driver’s feet will reach naturally, without the need to offset or twist the lower body. To make this possible, the front wheelhouse has been moved forward on all new and redesigned models since the Mazda CX-5, a change that reflects Mazda’s commitment to designing its vehicles around the human beings that use them. The adjustment range for the seats and steering wheel is determined in order to have as many drivers as possible to achieve their ideal driving position regardless of different body size or diepersion of Eye-Line Zone.
Position of front wheel allows the ideal pedal layout
The third step is to optimize each vehicle-control devices in harmony with the characteristics of the human body. One such characteristic is the basic need to keep one’s heel on the floor in order to maintain leg position comfortably over a long period. In operating the accelerator, the ankle becomes a fulcrum around which the foot pivots downwards. This is why recent Mazda models feature an “organ-type” accelerator which also pivots from a fixed point on the floor, allowing the foot and pedal to move together in a smooth and coordinated motion.
Another benefit of the organ-type accelerator pedal is that long drives are less tiring for the legs. There are two major muscle groups in the lower leg with the muscles along the shin responsible for raising the foot upwards toward the body and the muscles of the calf at work when you stretch your toes away. These larger muscles are the ones used when you press down on the accelerator and if the accelerator has sufficient counterforce to balance the weight of the leg, it is quite possible to operate the accelerator using only these muscles. Despite this fact, how many of us have experienced muscle pain in the shin after a long drive? If the movement of the foot from a fixed-heel position does not match that of the pedal, the driver is forced to use both the calf muscles and the easily-fatigued shin muscles. The key to reduce fatigue in the legs on a long drive is in using only the larger and more powerful calf muscles.
Reducing muscle fatigue
Benefits of the ideal driving position
The most important benefit of the ideal driving position is improved safety. For instance, moving the foot from the accelerator to the brake takes from 0.1 to 0.2 seconds longer if the driver’s heel is not planted on the floor. And in some situations, those few tenths of a second can make a big difference. The second benefit is improved control. It is that special feeling of seamless communication between car and driver: the vehicle responds to your every input, directly, intuitively, almost as if you are communicating with the car. In other words, in addition to helping you drive more safely, Mazda’s commitment to the perfect driving position plays a key role in achieving the Jinba-ittai driving feel, that sense of unity being car and driver that defines the Mazda driving experience.