Under the skin: how Bentley’s latest technology makes you sit pretty
Seating may not be the first thing to consider when considering car technology, but unlike living room sofas, car seats can be highly sophisticated pieces of equipment.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the opposite was true until some car companies, notably Saab and Volvo, began to make dramatic improvements. Inspired by the freezing Scandinavian winters, both firms began to look at the value of seat comfort and its impact on drivers’ well-being. They hired orthopedic experts to design the seats and added seat heating not only for comfort, but also because the heat is healthy for the driver’s back and reduces fatigue. It was advanced thinking at the time, so how have things evolved since then?
These days, the role of seats in reducing fatigue has meant that technological improvements have gone off scale with crash-resistant fixings, integrated seatbelt tensioners, airbags, high-tech interlayer and covering fabrics, and integrated infotainment screens. The pinnacle of seat sophistication is, unsurprisingly, hidden behind most luxurious cars, and the new Bentley Bentayga EWB Airline Seat Specification is one of the latest examples. As well as the hand-stitched beauty you might expect from the outside, the inside of the seats is a mix of the chiropractor’s consultation room and climate lab.
Taking the second of them first, the seat has an ‘auto climate system’ comprising a suite of sensors that measure the temperature and humidity of the passenger contact surface to an accuracy of 0.1°C every 25 seconds. The traveler has control of where they want it to be from a choice of seven settings. One of them is Neutral, which applies predetermined algorithms during testing with different passengers. Since then, Bentley claims, the seat makes changes before the passenger knows it’s needed. Although the heating technology is unchanged from previous designs, a new type of cooling fan can move about 80% more air than before.
For some, seat massage systems are as relaxing as a baby kicking the backrest, but that’s not the case at Bentleys. Instead, it contains something called a ‘postural adjustment’, which is specifically aimed at keeping fatigue at bay. The system consists of six pneumatic zones that adjust the contact pressure between the body and the seat, but in a subtle way, Bentley says. In total, the system can handle 177 individual pressure changes across zones.
The activity involves three-dimensional turns, using developed movements in conjunction with a chiropractor. From that input, Bentley, along with specialist Comfort Motion Global, developed the algorithm and developed the system during scientifically based tests. In studies, it was found that dynamically supporting body weight and varying each person’s weight and size relieves stress that Bentley can call “lack of focus.”