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Ford Wants to Build a Better Car for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women face many challenges that often go unnoticed by society. Simply climbing into and out of the driver’s seat of a car can be difficult with a protruding belly — but Ford Motor Company is looking to change all that.

Recently, the automakers began implementing an “empathy belly” in their engineering research, a suit that simulates the weight, size, and feel of a pregnancy, including bladder pressure and lung constriction. By understanding the challenges women face carrying around an extra load and life, Ford hopes to improve vehicle designs to better accommodate women in this important phase of transition.

“The Ford engineers put the empathy belly on, they wear it, they move in it, and they use these insights from wearing the belly to help with designs of future vehicles,” said Alison Ilg, a spokesperson for Ford.

The new initiative from Ford included a survey, which determined that 88% of women drive throughout the entirety of their pregnancy. “It gives a great opportunity for the Ford engineers to know what it’s like, to know what the physical limitations are with being pregnant like… how do you move, how do you adjust your seat,” said Ilg.

The end goal isn’t just profit, though. The empathy belly is part of a broader empathy training program that Ford and many other companies are utilizing to foster a happier workplace. New engineers must don the suit after they’re hired; according to Ford ergonomics specialist Katie Allanson, men often tire of it after 30 minutes (to which she jokes, “Three more months to go”).

The automotive industry also operates in its own circle of life; every year, enough steel is recycled from cars to produce around 13 million new vehicles. “Ford really cares about families, and safety first,” said Ilg.

The company recommends that pregnant drivers move their seats as far from the steering wheel as possible, remove bulky clothing while driving, and, like everyone else, avoid distractions on the road.

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