A Consumer Utility Model of Automotive Seating Comfort: Discomfort, Comfort Character, and Expectations 2014-01-0454
Experience tells us that one can develop a technically comfortable seat where the seat fits and supports the occupant. The pressure distribution is optimized and the seat and packaging are such that a good posture is attainable by many. The dynamic characteristics of the seat and the vehicle are technically good. Despite all this the customer is not satisfied. Despite it being a technically comfortable seat, it does meet the customers' expectations and/or priorities and thus the comfort provided is lacking. This paper seeks to explore that gap between the seat and the user by modeling comfort using techniques similar to those found in the social sciences where models often focus on user or individual behavior. The model is built upon but diverges from the Cobb Douglas consumer utility model found in economics. It is presented as theory and presents a very different perspective on comfort. The model should be used not as a replacement but a complement to the more traditional technical models of comfort that model the seat. For the purposes of this paper a technical model of comfort refers to objective seat and vehicle data that theoretically quantifies comfort. A technical model can include complex characteristics like cushioning, fit, posture, and others. It may also include pure seat data like foam hardness, seat shape, and seat adjustability. This theoretical model approaches comfort as a social scientist rather than engineer. It models the user's experience. The result is a comfort model that is a function of discomfort, luxury, and sportiness as well as expectations and priorities.