SCORING WITH ERGONOMIC DRIVER'S DESK
Advancing digitisation and improved seating comfort
The driver's desk, dashboard and environment have evolved enormously in terms of ergonomics. Control buttons and levers are increasingly within reach. The historical, often chaotic, multitude of tell-tales and gauges has been replaced by digital applications, and the driver's seat is almost cosy to sit in. The personalized ignition key or card, which contains settings for the seat, mirrors and handlebar height, may soon be available.
The Busworld Award Jury praised all aspects of the driver environment and ergonomics on the 12 buses and 9 coaches that were driven up. " Not all facilities were always built into specific buses and coaches, and were therefore not always taken into account in the jury report", Karl Ennaert opens. "We only evaluate what was actually present on the vehicle. In many cases, seats with armrests or lumbar support, with heated or cooled seats could be chosen as an option. Anything related to control is now largely within reach. A positive aspect is that the control buttons have the same icons, regardless of the brand. We see this not only in European vehicles but also in Chinese buses and coaches. This is definitely a plus for the driver when he has to drive vehicles of different brands".
Karl Ennaert also noticed that there is a strong emphasis on electronics. "All kinds of meters are increasingly being replaced by digital applications. Even the general check-up of the vehicles at start-up is done fully automatically. A complete programme is completed and the operation of turn signals and brake lights is checked automatically. You no longer need to be with two persons to see if everything works. When everything is in order, the vehicle starts up".
The mirror handling has also been simplified; a push on the button suffices to have the mirrors folded down when driving through a narrow street or past a parked truck, for example. The immense mirrors are increasingly being replaced by compact cameras and monitors. In fact, it is remarkable that this application has taken so long to develop, as the first cameras were already proposed by Bosch in 2017.
Although great progress has been made in terms of ergonomics, there are still some concerns, says Karl Ennaert: "The sun protection or dimming system on the front passenger side still needs to be operated manually at times, while this can be done perfectly electrically from the driver's desk. In several vehicles the driver's desks are not always easily accessible for drivers with a rather large build. Pivoting driver's seats rotating on their axles are usually only found in the more expensive buses and coaches. They are often offered optionally, although it is a feature that makes it easier for many drivers to get behind the wheel or in the back without forcing their lumbar spine. It should also be possible to slide the driver's seat a little further back; some transporters solve this by moving the safety catch at the bottom of the seat, but that is not how it should be".
Ignition keys and cards
According to Karl Ennaert, we are eventually, and perhaps even faster than we think, evolving from cars to personalized ignition keys or cards. These will include the desired settings for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering column, and as soon as the driver plugs in the key or card or logs in to the vehicle, everything will be adjusted correctly. "Some countries and brands excel in the field of electronics. You can already see a lot of applications in passenger cars, and they will undoubtedly be introduced in buses and coaches", says Karl Ennaert. Brands lagging behind in the past have now made a huge catch-up effort across the board and now, thanks to advanced electronics and IT technology, may even be able to take a head start in the near future.