Tesla has submitted a patent that would improve its Semi-truck’s centered seat design by utilizing a suspension system on the architecture of the driver’s seat to add additional safety to the operator of the vehicle.
The patent notes that scissor-lift designs are commonly used in large vehicle seats, like in a semi-truck. This design includes pivoting legs that cross each other, allowing seats to be adjustable. However, this architecture has some drawbacks, especially when an accident occurs. In the event of a collision, the “all belts to seat” (ABTS) development “requires the frame of the seat to withstand the expected loads of the occupant and distribute them to the vehicle body. However, the scissor-leg designs were not originally intended for ABTS solutions and are not efficient at distributing the loads,” the patent states. The intention is to make the seat safer and more comfortable, an idea that could save drivers of the Semi in the long run.
“For a driver, adjusting the height of the seat can be important in ensuring a safe driving position. For a passenger, height adjustment can provide increased comfort. Truck seats with scissor-lift designs can be raised or lowered using an airbag positioned underneath the seat, with the scissor legs being more, or less, extended based on the state of inflation.”
Tesla’s proposed suspension seat design. (Credit: U.S. Patent Office)
Safety and comfort are of the utmost importance to truck drivers, as many of them are traveling across the country in the Semi they are operating. Many drivers work at a rate of pay that depends on the number of miles they travel in a given shift. This can attribute to long periods of time behind the wheel, making it important for the driver to feel comfortable and safe at all times. According to the Federal Highway Administration, truck drivers can travel between 45,000 and 100,000 miles a year. This makes it pertinent for truck-makers to design vehicles that are comfortable enough to allow extended driving sessions.
The design Tesla is proposing would increase safety in the event of a crash, while also benefiting drivers of different heights. When adjusting the height of the seat, the driver is inflating or deflating an airbag to either raise or lower their positioning. Depending on the inflation of this airbag, the spring force can change, and this can cause differing results in the event of an accident.
“Many seats feature suspension for the comfort of the occupant. In truck seats with a scissor-lift design, the airbag also serves as a spring to provide suspension, and a damper can be added to absorb shock. However, because the airbag is also used to control the seat height, ride characteristics are affected by the height adjustment,” Tesla states in the patent’s background.
Tesla plans to include this suspension system by having a “multi-post architecture” that would couple sleeves to sets of lift links. They also plan to modify the height adjustment system that would coincide with the seat’s suspension.
“The height adjustment system comprises a four-bar linkage. The height adjustment system is positioned on top of the suspension system. The vehicle seat further includes a plate riding on the suspension system, the sleeves are coupled to the plate, and respective first ends of the pairs of lift links are pivotally coupled to the plate. The multi-post architecture includes posts coupled to a plate configured for fore/aft adjustment on a track,” Tesla wrote.
Overall, Tesla seems to be designing its Semi to be the safest tractor-trailer on the road, hands down. Safety is a priority for the company to begin with, but the development of new methods to create a safer driving experience stands strong and firm with concepts outlined in by the company in these recent patent applications.
The Semi has been ordered by multiple companies that are looking for a more environmentally-friendly logistics option. It will begin a limited production sometime in 2020.
The full text of Tesla’s suspension seat design could be accessed here.