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Potholed Boston streets inspire Bose truck seat

Posted by Gerry Miles  March 15, 2010 04:42 PM

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The term "truckin'" may recall memorable moments from the 1970 Grateful Dead song, CB radios, or perhaps the infamous 1968 Robert Crumb cartoon character who leans back with his foot outstretched and a thumb up in the air.

Bose-Ride-truck-seat-607.jpgTo the folks behind the wheel, it's said to be a job that lives deep in the soul. But for many, the travails of trucking reverberate-literally-in the vertebrae of the driver. He takes bumps in the road wherever he goes and can suffer from what's known as "whole body vibration."

When engineer Jim Parison rode with a driver hauling Bose bounty, he was shocked at the pounding the pavement provided on Atlantic Avenue in Boston.

"We were astounded at the bumps that the standard under-the-seat suspension could not absorb," recalls Bose chief engineer Mike Rosen. "We came away thinking there has to be a better way and we could use our technology to help."

In the conventional seating setup, when a force pushes on a spring, it pushes back. The driver is in constant motion as springs cushion the force but never counter it. The Bose Ride actuator intercepts and counteracts the waves, or vibrations, from the road.

"When a truck hits a pothole, it's sensed by the Bose Ride, as the floor of the cab accelerates downward. The computer tells the linear actuator to provide an upward force, carrying the driver comfortably over the pothole," Rosen explains. "At the other end, the force will be pushing up, and the actuator will tell the chair to go down with the truck floor, keeping the driver level."

The Bose Ride can also be turned off-and often is-when drivers jockey trailers in yards, acting as a conventional OEM seat, making it two seats in one.

After five years and 100,000 hours of secret road testing, the Bose Ride has yielded two constant reports from drivers: their time in the rig was less taxing and they weren't spending "down time" at home, trying to recover for their next haul.

"A typical test unit was put in a truck for a month," says Rosen, "and it was striking to us that this had that kind of impact. There were real quality of life issues reported, and those issues translate into costs for the trucking industry.

"I'm sure Dr. Bose never anticipated when he began work on the car suspension system back in 1980, that it'd have a possible application for someone such as the trucking industry."

The Bose Ride will be shown off and demonstrated in labs at trade shows across the country. "After 10 to 15 minutes with us in the mobile lab, they're right with us," says Rosen of the truckers trying it out.

The seats, manufactured in Framingham, go on sale this month at a cost of $5,995 and will be offered first to fleets before being sold to single owner-operator truckers. Weighing about 180 pounds-compared to a conventional seat's 100 pounds-Bose Ride carries a one-year warranty. Running off the truck battery, it consumes no more energy than that needed to power a 50-watt light bulb.

And no, it does not have speakers built into the seat. "That's one of the most common questions," laughs Rosen, "because of who we are." The ride, however, is music to a trucker's back.

Gerry Miles can be reached at gmiles24@comcast.net.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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