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Develop Pleasurable Automotive Switch-Feel Through Perceptual Design

[+] Author Affiliations
Pietro Buttolo, Jim Rankin, Basavaraj Tonshal, Matthew Johnston, Yifan Chen

Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, MI

Paper No. DETC2006-99574, pp. 563-572; 10 pages
  • ASME 2006 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 4a: 18th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, September 10–13, 2006
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4258-4 | eISBN: 0-7918-3784-X
  • Copyright © 2006 by ASME


Automotive interior has become the next battleground for quality, customer satisfaction and emotional appeal. As an integral part of vehicle interior, operating quality of switches has a direct impact on the customer’s overall perception of quality. As of today, work in switch design and engineering has focused primarily on visual appeal, ergonomics and functionality while limited work has been done to understand and design switches that “feel” pleasurable to operate. As a result, specifications concerning the switch-feel are incomplete or ineffective and our automotive switches typically lack good and consistent operating feel. Switch-feel “quality” is affected by how sensory input is processed by the user, and as such, it falls into the category of perceptual quality. To effectively meet the challenge of engineering high quality switch-feel we present a novel approach based on perceptual design. With perceptual design the sensory pleasure of a product is considered as a forefront design objective rather than a bi-product of the traditional functionality and usability centered product design and development practice [1]. Our methodology employs several well-established science and engineering disciplines to gain knowledge of perceptual data, its relationship with physical stimuli, and the human sensitivity to such physical stimuli. Haptics simulators were developed to generate a wide range of switch-feel for use in our psychophysical studies. Multi-Dimensional Scaling (MDS) was used to identify the main components of human perception of switch-feel. Threshold analysis was carried out to determine how sensitive humans are in detecting changes of these parameters. A Design of Experiment (DOE) preference study was used to develop “Quality Functions” that map switch-feel physical parameters to subjective, perceived quality. New switch-feel specifications were created based on our perceptual design work. A switch-feel measurement system was also developed to verify whether the feel of a physical switch actually meets our specifications. We applied perceptual design to a production vehicle program to improve the operating feel of its climate control switches. The results demonstrated that it was effective in delivering good, pleasurable switch-feel, and at the same time, improved our engineering efficiency.

Copyright © 2006 by ASME
Topics: Design , Switches



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