Harita, IIT-M develop Intelliseat

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The Intelliseat developed by Harita Seating in association with IIT-M aims at minimising accidents by detecting driver fatigue.

Story & Photos:

Bhargav TS

In order to reduce road accidents due to driver fatigue, Harita Seating Systems Limited (HSSL), and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), have developed ‘Intelliseat’, an Internet of Things (IoT) device that monitors the performance and behaviour of the driver. To develop Intelliseat, HSSL joined hands with IITM two years ago. Operating independently, and capable of providing vehicle information like vehicle location, Intelliseat can be used for driver training and fleet risk evaluation as well. Capable of influencing fleet insurance and ownership costs, Intelliseat is expected to present Harita Seating a unique advantage.

Specialising in the manufacture of truck and tractor seats, the improvement of automotive seating system, particularly for the driver, has been a priority at HSSL. The company found out during its interaction with drivers and other industry stakeholders that professional drivers spend most of their time behind the wheel, and experience considerable fatigue. In case of people carriers, drivers experience more fatigue than the passengers experience. On an average, a truck or bus is driven for 10 hours a day. The drivers sometime tend to drive continuously, causing fatigue and leading to an accident. Developed as a performance monitoring tool, Intelliseat is engineered to detect fatigue. It will subsequently warn the driver, and signal him to take a break. This, in turn, would eliminate the possibility of an accident. Expressed AG Giridharan, President, HSSL, “Improvement of an automotive seating system, particularly that of the driver, is important to us.”

Developed at the Rehabilitation Bioengineering Group, Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras, Intelliseat, according to Prof. Venkatesh Balasubramanian, Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras, was developed over a span of two years. A team from Harita and IIT Madras translated the conceptual work in the lab to a viable solution that can be productionised and applied. Expected to make roads safer, and have an impact on driver benchmarking (training) and fleet insurance, Intelliseat, developed to operate independent of any other system in the vehicle, can be used for in-vehicle information and tracking. Capable of being used for driver training and fleet risk evaluation, Intelliseat starts functioning as soon as the driver occupies it. The sensors detect his or her presence, and send a warning signal if there is a movement. When the sensor senses minor fatigue, the driver is notified with a red signal on the dashboard. When the system senses a moderate fatigue, a chime goes of. If the situation goes out of control and the driver is close to dozing off, the Intelliseat vibrates. This makes a compelling reason for the driver to stop.

According to Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, India has an unconscionably high rate of traffic accidents, and technologies that can reduce accidents due to driver fatigue are sorely needed. Tested in South India, Intelliseat will soon began testing in other parts of the country. Taking into account driver performance and behaviour, which is greatly influenced by physical and cognitive factors, Intelliseat, according to Ramamurthi, will elevate safety. The system’s contribution would be to curb accidents by understanding driver behaviour, fatigue, and performance slippage. Appropriate intervention to avoid road accident looks like the best remedy.

Said C N Prasad, Director, HSSL, “It has always been the endeavour of Harita Seating to develop cost-effective technologies, which are relevant to the immediate Indian context. The joint development opportunity with IIT Madras for the Intelliseat showcases the results of such an endeavour. I hope that this innovation will lead to safer roads and reduce the risk of accidents due to driver fatigue.”

Suppling seats to Ashok Leyland, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, John Deere, M&M, Mercedes-Benz Buses, AMW, New Holland, TAFE, Tata Marcopolo and Tata Motors, HSSL has six plants in India. The mother plant is in Hosur. The other plants of the company are at Pune, Jamshedpur, Dharwad, Chennai and Pantnagar.

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With the National Crime Research Bureau (NCRB, 2016) report put this number of road accidents to 464,674 cases in India in 2015 (a detailed study of accidents by researchers had them attribute 40 per cent deaths to human error, which often translates into driver fatigue), the Harita Intelliseat looks like an innovation that will provide the right solution to curb accidents in India that happen due to driver fatigue.

Suspended seats from Harita Seating Systems

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Harita Seating Systems has developed suspended seats for trucks and tractors.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

With an eye on the commercial vehicle and tractor market, Hosur-based Harita Seating Systems Ltd. (HSSL) has developed mechanical and pneumatic suspended driver seats for trucks and tractors. The development, in response to the rising demand for comfort and safety in trucks and tractors, is expected to enable the TVS Group company to find good number of takers, in the domestic as well as the export market. Specialising in the manufacture and supply of safe, ergonomic and reliable driver seats, and bus passenger seats, HSSL, it is clear, is keen to address the changing demand for seating solutions in CVs and tractors. It has been some time now that the CV industry has been facing acute shortage of drivers – good drivers. Operational costs are rising too. The situation has come to a level where drivers dictate the vehicle that they want to drive depending on the level of comfort it offers. With ergonomics and comfort assuming greater proportion among CV and tractor operators, the decision to develop and market suspended seats by Harita marks a significant move. In a fast urbanising environment, where infrastructure is rising, expectations are changing. Drivers, who have an important role to play, are demanding better comfort. Suspended seats, it looks like, could well provide the answer. According to A G Giridharan, President, HSSL, only a small portion in the Indian market is occupied by suspended seats. “These are imported. Sensing an opportunity we started working on both mechanical and air suspended seats for tractors and trucks. Both the vehicles operate in tough terrains unlike passenger vehicles,” mentioned Giridharan.

Need for suspended seats

Suspension in tractors is almost no existant making it necessary to have a suspended driver seat. In the case of a truck, the driver spends on an average 10 hours of the day behind the wheel. The need for comfort and safety is of paramount importance therefore. HSSL, according to Giridharan, has appointed a German consultant in Harita’s R&D centre with a rich experience in developing suspended truck seats for the European market. “Our team is working with him on this project and will come up with suspended seats for both Indian and global markets. We will be setting up a separate line in either of our plants to manufacture them,” Giridharan expressed. Catering to CV OEMs like Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, AMW, Mahindra and Scania, and tractor manufacturers like Tafe, John Deere, New Holland, Sonalika, Mahindra, Escorts and others, HSSL has a well equipped R&D centre at Hosur, which could play an important role in the development of suspended seats. The centre is equipped with virtual design capabilities and value-added infrastructure such as road condition data acquisition. It is also equipped with a servo hydraulic rig (for seats and seat components) and pressure-mapping system that helps acquire anthropological data. The seats, at the R&D centre, go through drop tests, lateral stability tests, slider endurance tests and ingress-egress tests.

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Bus seats

Established in 1986 as a joint venture with Grammer AG of Germany, HSSL enjoys a strong hold on the bus seat market. It is claimed to command a majority share of the long haul bus seat market. To enhance safety, the company has added a safety feature by integrating a three-point belt in every bus passenger seat. The seat meets the ECE norms, and are supplied prominently to those who export their buses. Though the safety code has not reached up to this level in India, a few of Harita’s customers buy seats for buses that transport foreign tourists. Aware of the rising number as well as the popularity of sleeper coaches, Giridharan expressed a need for seat design that supports easy accessibility and an ability to get in and get out quickly. Especially in the case of an emergency. “There should be roll-over protection. In order to meet the requirements and provide good comfort, we have modular products which can be used both for day and night journeys,” said Giridharan. “We are however waiting for clarity on the statutory requirements to start manufacturing them

for sleeper coaches,” he added.

Lighter, more comfortable seats

With one of the seating trends being light weighting without compromising comfort, HSSL is testing the commercial viability of using plastic pans and high-strength steel instead of traditional steel. A good deal of seat’s weight is of its frame and foam. HSSL, by using alternative materials, is making efforts to reduce the weight of the seats it manufactures according to Giridharan. HSSL, having a mother plant at Hosur and six plants across India at Pune, Jamshedpur, Dharwad, Chennai and Pantnagar, also manufactures two-wheeler seats through a joint venture. The JV with F S Fehrer Automotive GmbH of Germany, with facilities at Hosur, Chennai and Pune, manufactures micro cellular urethanes, polyurethane composites, foams for driver seats and passenger seats for buses.

Focusing on improving the supply chain efficiency through inter-plant coordination and horizontal deployment of lean and other improvement initiatives across all plants, HSSL registered sales of Rs.30,781.08 lakh in FY2015-16 as against Rs.27,375.54 lakh in FY2014-15. Achieving 10 per cent of its turnover from exports (consolidated turnover in FY2015-16 was Rs.637 crore), the company is hoping to further increase its market share in all the seating system areas that it is present in. There are risks associated, the entry of overseas competition and the entry of Indian bus body builders into seat manufacture for example. The good part is, HSSL has a good command over the tractor seat market. To maintain leadership position, the new product development activities the company has undertaken look like a right step in the right direction.