Carmakers face obesity challenges

Child obesity
Chris Radburn/PA WIRE

Car manufacturers may need to undertake a fundamental redesign of their models in the future to accommodate increasingly obese drivers, an industry insider has warned.

Sheryl Connelly, who works identifying future trends at Ford's headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, said the car industry will have to adapt to changes in consumer needs, the Telegraph reports.

"We need to look at the human profile if the obesity epidemic continues. When you have these physiological changes you can get reduced response times," she said.

She went on to highlight the problem with the potential of slower reactions from larger and heavier drivers, which would require carmakers to improve safety technology to stop driving from becoming more dangerous. The advent of driverless cars – which are in development by a number of major manufacturers – would prove a major development in this respect.

However, more mundane technology is already helping motorists whose driving is already affected by their weight. Ms Connelly highlighted the example of heavily overweight drivers using rear-mounted cameras to aid reversing.

"Obesity could mean not being able to turn your head or look over your shoulder," she said.

Her findings form part of a report for the American carmaker on future issues. It went on to highlight the fact that rapidly increasing obesity is not just a western issue, with the rapidly growing economies of China and India also experiencing collectively expanding waistlines.

Despite the growth in size of drivers, however, Ms Connelly's report suggests that cars themselves are likely to get smaller, with space for just two or three passengers – reflecting current use, which sees cars used by sole occupants for the majority of the time.