The basic operations of a vehicle — moving, turning, and stopping — are controlled at three points: the steering wheel, pedals, and shift lever. In order to create a sense of oneness between a car and driver, each of these control units must be exceedingly precise, sharp, smooth and easy. Furthermore, when maneuvering a vehicle, these three control units are operated all at the same time. Therefore, Mazda also believes that the operation and feel of the steering wheel, pedals and shift lever must be integrated. Mazda strives to perfect these fundamental factors to achieve ideal driving performance.
Each control unit that affects the operation of a vehicle should be arranged to suit the natural characteristics of the human body and must be precise, sharp, smooth, and easy.
The characteristics of the human body, defined by our bone and muscle structure, determine how we can apply force. Each control unit is positioned to match these characteristics. Our engineers strive to find the best position and shape for each unit by utilizing Mazda's unique driving position test rig (above left). We measure muscle forces with electromyographic sensors linked to a computer. We use motion capture technology to trace body movements (above right). Multiple cameras record three-dimensional maps, tracing the movements of several markers that are attached to the body of a test engineer. Based on this analysis, we optimize the placement of the control units.
We set the steering column angle so that drivers can comfortably maneuver the vehicle along winding roads without having to stretch their arms and lose shoulder support from the seatback. Care is also taken to prevent the driver's torso from interfering with arm movement. These measures resulted in a more upright steering wheel angle in the all-new Mazda6 compared to the previous model.
Based on ergonomic analysis of muscle loads, we optimized the shift lever position to ensure gear changes are swift and easy. As a result, we moved the shift knob up and across to be closer to the driver and reduce the distance that the driver's hand has to move.
For the pedals, we begin by categorizing human body movements into groups such as "Pushing with a foot," "Pushing with a leg" and "Moving a foot from one pedal to another." We collect and analyze data on physical reactions, body movements, and the characteristics of the pedal mechanisms. The results are used to optimize the accelerator, clutch and brake pedal forces, the distances between each pedal, and the relative alignment between the accelerator and brake pedal.
|Based on ergonomic analysis of the shape and placement of the driving controls, we aim to achieve Responsive Handling and Driving Performance — one of the three elements of Mazda's product DNA. Specifically, we develop every control unit to match the particular dynamic characteristics of the vehicle. The action of the steering wheel, pedals and shift lever are refined to attain a consistent feel.|
First, a vehicle's dynamic performance must respond naturally and linearly to the driver's actions. We ensure that the force needed to operate the controls and their range of movement (the force-stroke characteristics) intuitively match the vehicle's dynamics. For example, the force needed to move the accelerator pedal and the distance it moves must precisely correspond to the vehicle's acceleration and speed.
While this is a fundamental aspect common to all of Mazda's products, it is refined to reflect the character of each specific model. For example, we emphasize the lightness and agility of the MX-5's controls. Achieving a consistent control feel is one of the most important elements in every Mazda.