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Auto Show:  2011 San Diego Auto Show

Trying on Cars for Size - San Diego Auto Show

January 2011 author photo


January 4, 2011

It’s great going to car shows and checking out all the new automotive technology, like voice-activated functions, driver attention monitoring and radar-based pedestrian detection. But there’s one incredibly impressive piece of technology that we tend to overlook: how our own bodies interact with the car.

At the San Diego auto show, Scripps health care company (based in the city) does its best to help us optimize the smart systems we walk around with every day. “We spend a lot of time in our cars these days, so it’s important to pay attention to how we physically interact with them,” said Tim Goldberg, a physical therapist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, California.

Goldberg’s advice is to evaluate certain key auto components, all of which can have an impact on the well-being of muscles, joints and bones. The first is the driver’s seat: how comfortable is it and does it have sufficient lumbar support? This latter function helps us to sit up straight, which in turn helps us preserve our general alertness.

Check the adjustability of the steering wheel for height and reach. The ideal positioning of the arms should also prevent a “head-forward” posture, which will become uncomfortable after a while.

Pedals. According to Goldberg, the driver should have about a 90-degree angle at the hips. The knees should not be higher than the waistline, but some sports cars don’t fit that brief so well. Just make sure the foot can press down on the brake pedal with sufficient force and travel.

Dashboard controls should all be within arm’s length and easy to operate. Seems obvious enough.

Door entry height. Goldberg’s approach here is to be realistic. For some people, either a low-slung sports car and/or a high-set SUV will make entry and exit problematic. If not right away, then perhaps sooner than many of us would like. The good news is that driving fun can be had in cars of all shapes and sizes.

By getting our car to fit around us, rather than the other way around, we can remain both comfortable and alert for those longer stretches behind the wheel.

author photoCOLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Trying on Cars for Size - San Diego Auto Show - Autotrader