Chevrolet Equinox Incorprates Universal Design

From Paddock Talk:

Getting into the Chevrolet Equinox is so easy, its owners may never notice. The small crossover's narrow rocker panels require minimal reach to step over, and its seat height requires minimal bending. Equinox's ease of entry is just one example of Chevrolet's use of universal design, an approach that makes products of all kinds work for as many people as possible.

Consumers experience universal design every day, from sidewalk ramps to lever-style door handles. For most people, universal design adds convenience, but for people with limited range of motion, it can be a difference maker. A rear vision camera, programmable liftgate and easy-to-use touch screen controls are examples of Equinox's ease-of-use features.

Ease of use is increasingly important to car design as automakers adapt to changing consumer demographics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 65-and-older population is projected to grow to more than 71 million by 2030, and will account for 20 percent of the nation's citizenry. That means more car buyers will be dealing with age-related issues that affect range of motion, eyesight, hearing, reflexes and cognition - issues that General Motors has studied in depth and has already begun to address in many of its vehicles such as the Equinox.

"We never design vehicles specifically for older consumers, but we increasingly integrate design solutions that work for all users, regardless of age," said Carl Wellborn, senior staff engineer and project manager, GM Design and Technology Fusion. "Designs that make life easier for older users also work for younger users. Universal design is the key to unlocking usability solutions and implementing them successfully."

Wellborn presented GM's findings on increasing product value for an aging global market at the American Occupational Therapy Association's national convention last year. The research was based on dozens of interviews with consumers who ranged in age from 21 to 65 and older. 

"We are thrilled that GM is interested in better understanding the unique needs of aging drivers," said Elin Schold Davis, project coordinator of the Older Driver Initiative at the American Occupational Therapy Association in Bethesda, Md. "We are a car-dependent nation and want to maintain our driving independence as long as we can. Vehicles that use universal designs can make it easier and safer for people to have and enjoy personal transportation well into old age."

For automakers, the rising number of older car buyers is impossible to ignore, because Baby Boomers, the generation now reaching retirement age, buy the most new vehicles. According to a recent study from J.D. Power and AARP, people ages 50 and older now buy more than six of every 10 new vehicles sold - up 39 percent since 2001.



From Torque News:

Chevy shines a spotlight on universal design and ease of use with the 2013 Equinox as its example.

Chevy Equinox

Where should the horn on a 2013 Chevy Equinox be? Should it be easy for most people to enter and exit the vehicle, or can Chevy just make it easy for fit people? Should all navigation systems have similar menus? The answer to these questions is not so obvious. The topic is called universal design and Chevy recently brought the topic to the forefront in a press release using its Equinox as an example.
In the information released by Chevy, the examples of universal design and ease of use design include a simple to step over sill (once called a rocker panel) under the door. If that sill requires a step over some drivers with limited mobility would have a hard time entering and exiting. Careful, thoughtful design can eliminate the issue. To the contrary, some vehicles are purpose built. For example the Lotus Elise is a track car thinly disguised as a road car. When one first opens the Elise door the sill to step over is the size of a carry-on bag. Entering requires dexterity, flexibility, bravado, and faith. However, that thick sill is actually a part of the vehicle's box frame and it gives the car such rigidity it impacts the car's cornering in amazing ways. The Chevy Equinox is a general purpose vehicle so ease of entry matters a lot.

It can be argued that some design elements would best be similar on a Chevy Equinox, Chevy Corvette, and a Chevy Silverado, any vehicle for that matter. For example, at a recent press preview my co-driver and I were testing a new car that was outstanding in pretty much every way. We won't tell you the name of the vehicle but it rhymes with "Lexus ES300h." Despite my co-driver's many years of testing cars and infotainment systems, and the fact that the other person in the car owned two modern Lexus vehicles, nobody could figure out how to turn up the volume of the navigation system. It was too low to hear (perhaps adjusted by a cheeky journalist who had just given up the vehicle ahead of us?) This highlighted for the group that navigation systems are becoming almost universal now. Shouldn't a driver be able to plop into the seat and quickly make it work without watching a DVD, or reading a operations manual as thick as War and Peace? The brake and accelleration pedals are always right where expect them, shouldn't the volume controls for the navigation system also be predictable?

Commenting on universal design Carl Wellborn, senior staff engineer and project manager, GM Design and Technology Fusion said "Universal design is the key to unlocking usability solutions and implementing them successfully." One simple example of universal design that helps folks of all mobility levels is the Equinox rear view camera. No longer really a luxury feature, the rear view camera only costs automakers a few dollars to integrate to an existing infotainment system. Yet, its value can be much greater than that if it helps people see behind the SUV, particularly people for whom twisting is difficult.

Universal design and ease of use are two related issues that more automakers should discuss openly.


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