Mazda learned how critical visibility is for a car’s performance from an extensive study on human behavior and traits.
Vehicle Testing & Research Department
Good visibility is one of the most essential conditions of a safe and confident driving environment. With countless hours spent studying and understanding people’s physical characteristics, including the characteristics of the eye, Mazda defines its unique visibility as a part of its car’s driving performance. Available in the new-generation products since the CX-5, Mazda’s improved visibility gets a detailed commentary by Seishi Nakamura, an engineer with Mazda’s Vehicle Testing & Research Department. Nakamura talks about a concept behind improved visibility and technologies developed by engineers for a safe and enjoyable driving experience.
Defining excellent visibility at Mazda: what do we mean by vision?
It is said that nearly 80% of human perceptions come from vision. We humans rely on our vision to gather information, and use the information to our advantage in daily life. The same goes for driving a car. Visibility that translates to visual information appropriate to a driving environment builds a driver’s confidence, and helps them enjoy safe driving. “To pursue improved visibility, we did an exhaustive study on what vision does to a human being. The study helped us define a desirable visibility for driver”, says Nakamura.
“For us at Mazda, excellent visibility means a condition where a driver can see whatever they want to see in a proper driving posture, without any physical burden or stress”, Nakamura continued. “A car wasn’t the starting point. We started by looking at the human driver. We designed visibility so that the driver is seated in our optimal driving position, which stabilizes their vision. They drive in a proper posture and ahead of their eyes lie visual information that they needs.”
Mazda’s ideal visibility was developed based on its understanding of the driver’s physical characteristics.
Three types of visibility: securing safety for both the driver and pedestrians.
Designed with the driver’s physical characteristics and behavior in mind, Mazda’s improved visibility is broken down into three types – 1) panoramic visibility, 2) continuous visibility, and 3) visibility in darkness.
1) Panoramic visibility: securing an open, wide forward visibility.
A wide, open vision through the windshield is essential to all drivers.
“We made sure that driving into an intersection, a driver is able to see pedestrians walking on a crosswalk from both directions through the windshield. Securing an open, wide vision meant that both A-pillars had to be pushed to the rear, which impacted the overall car design including exterior styling. It turned out that from exterior styling point of view, positioning A-pillars to the rear enhanced a car’s proportion so the decision worked for both exterior styling and driver’s visibility.”
“But the issue was door mirrors”, continues Nakamura. “Shifting A-pillars to the rear logically meant that door mirrors had also to be pushed to the rear, and the mirrors could be out of “natural viewing angle” defined based on physical characteristics.” Nakamura and his team made subtle adjustments to realize panoramic visibility - an open, wide forward vision with no physical stresses on the driver.
2) Continuous visibility - 1: enabling a driver to spot pedestrians in left turns for a right-hand drive car, and right turns for a left-hand drive car.
Continuous visibility is about securing visibility when a car or whatever is on the road is in continuous motion.
“This technology was developed by pursuing visibility for left turns for a right-hand drive car and right turns for a left-hand drive car when a driver has to deal with many blind spots. We chose a situation where a 5 year-old child is crossing a road, and designed visibility so that the driver is able to see the child wherever he or she is beyond the A-pillar, between the A-pillar & door mirror and above door mirror.”
“What’s important here is that a person is capable of recognizing an object as long as some part of the object is visually detected. Interestingly, a visual image seen through the right and the left eye is different. These two individual images are sent to a brain, which combines the images for recognition. Such physical characteristics were referenced in designing A-pillars, door mirror layout and shape. Configurations such as a gap between A-pillar and a door mirror and the height of door mirrors were set so that a driver can visually keep detecting a part of a child’s body either through his right or left eye continuously. To us, that is a visually safe driving environment.”
2) Continuous visibility-2: confidence-boosting driving in corners.
Continuous visibility is also about making sure that a driver gets an excellent vision for driving corners safely.
“When a driver detects that there’s something wrong with a car in front, he needs to push on the brake and stop the car safely without crashing into the car ahead. That requires a forward vision that stretches beyond a safe stopping distance between the driver’s car and the car in front. For a driver to check their driving direction and make a judgment on how to operate their car, they need to be able to see the space where they will be in a few seconds time. In Mazda’s new-generation models, those information can be visually recognized on the windshield and side windows.”
Making a driver visually recognize continuous space information whilst cornering allows them to intuitively judge how to handle their car. Nakamura and his team also made sure that this information is available in tighter corners.
3) Visibility in dark conditions: creating a driving environment for safe driving at night.
Visibility in darkness is about combining panoramic visibility and continuous visibility and applying it to driving situations at night.
“Visibility for a driver needs to cover driving conditions and situations in darkness. We worked to secure excellent visibility in darkness by adopting Adaptive LED Headlights (ALH) that’s capable of automatically adjusting lights to avoid blinding an oncoming car when driving with high beams on, and enables wider illumination to stretch the driver’s field of vision. Another technology we use is Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) which distributes light from the headlights to a driving direction at bends and turns.”
“The three types of visibility mentioned above all come from human-centric design philosophy. What’s more important is that a human-centric design approach is the foundation of Mazda’s car development, and the same philosophy is applied to all the new-generation products since the development of the CX-5(*). From the Mazda2 to the Mazda6, each and every model in our line-up gives the driver excellent visibility that we spent many years to develop, for safe and assured driving.”
（*）AFS and ALH are not equipped on some models/markets.