Why are back seats so rubbish?

I think cars with 4 seats have a major design flaw everyone ignores: their back seats. They simply don’t work.

September 18, 2017 - 3 minute read -
Random Ideas Design Usability
Car Back Seat
Even the most luxurious of back seats… they’re pretty rubbish!

Let’s start with a simple question:

How did you enjoy the last time you took a trip in the back seat of a car?

Chances are it’s not the most memorable experience you’ve had — well, not in a positive way at least — and it’s been exactly the same for me!

Every time I find myself traveling in the back seat of a car, I am truly stricken by the difference in experience for those traveling in the back and those traveling in the front.

Let’s be honest — traveling in the back… sucks!

It’s not a coincidence everybody wants to go in the front seat. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite: there’s even the “shotgun” game (the one where whoever shouts the word “shotgun” first is granted access to the front seat). Young kids want to grow up just so they can sit at the front. Teenagers fight about it. Adults make deals about sharing the burden of traveling in the back (one does it each way). It’s a mess…

As any self-respecting engineer would do when spotting a problem, I also immediately tried generalization: is this just a local or global problem? Is this just a problem with cars, or is it a more general issue with all our means of transport? Are they all designed in a way that some people get a better travel experience than others?

Here’s a quick list I put together:

Bus: all seats are basically as good as one another. People standing are at a clear disadvantage, but I can appreciate the design choice there is to make up more space so as to allow more people on the bus.

Metro: similar situation to the bus. Sitting is fine (most of the times), standing mostly sucks — but same comments as above hold.

Airplanes: pretty much everyone (in economy class) has a crappy experience. It’s tight, everyone is crammed, your legs don’t fit, the person next to you might be drooling on your shoulder, but, hey — at least they go really fast… You can buy better seats in planes though.

Trains: some seats are a little bit better than others, but as long as you have a seat… there’s no striking difference here. Again, you can buy 1st class seats.

… and then… we get to:

Motorcycles: on the contrary to a car, the person on the back of a motorcycle arguably has a better seat than the driver. I am referring to the ones where the back seat is actually higher than the drivers seat.

Here’s how that looks like:

Motorcycle back seats

And that makes all the difference!

You see, with this simple — almost unnoticeable you could say — modification, the designers have managed to completely turn the tables on the experience of the back seat.

Where you were stuck looking at the back of a helmet, now you have an almost unobstructed view!

Where you were forced to pick one shoulder to look over, so that you could look left or right, now you can easily turn your head.

The experience of the back seat has been… elevated. : )

And this was done simply by the designer treating the back seat passenger no different than the driver. Because… why shouldn’t they both enjoy the ride the same?

And this brought me to the simple question:

Why can the same thing not happen with cars?

Why can we not have higher back seats in cars?

Now, I am not an expert of any sort on car design, but I have put together a quick drawing of how that would look like:

Better Back Seats in Cars
Unreal drawing skillz ^^

There you have it then folks. No more nauseating rides in the back seat. No more fighting. No arguing. World peace is a tiny step closer. All rejoice!

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