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Pregnant Women, Elderly Inspire New Cars

With a 2 1/2-year-old son and a baby on the way, Erica Fazzari is a busy mom. But when it came to buying a new car for the family, she took months to choose one.

She said she spent so long time looking because she wanted to find something that was comfortable for her as a pregnant woman and easy to handle as a mother.

"Features that you think would be common really aren't," she told The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen.

Koeppen, who is also expecting her second child, visited Ford Motor Company engineer Eero Laansoo, who is trying to cater to the needs of customers such as Fazzari. To do this he puts on something called a pregnancy suit, which allows the wearer to experience what it feels like to be pregnant.

"It's one thing to hear and listen to your customers' concerns," he said. "It's another thing to actually experience those concerns firsthand. The suit itself simulates 22 conditions or symptoms of pregnancy. Weight gain, shortness of breath, increase of blood pressure … the list goes on."

The new Ford Edge was designed with expectant moms in mind. The back seats, for example, flip down with just the touch of a button.

"No more leaning forward to try to flip the seats down and wrestle with the seats," Laansoo said. "The belly actually helped influence that design decision."

The Edge also has an adjustable steering wheel and the front seats are wider and plenty of thought went into how high they sit from the ground.

"I did notice in this vehicle it was easy for me to get in and out," b>Koeppen said.

And with so many baby boomers behind the wheel, some of the design ideas at Ford come from another type of suit, which engineers call a third age suit. It makes the wearer feel 30 years older with a whole host of issues like bad knees and elbows. Special glasses simulate a driver with cataracts.

"Yeah, and it really highlights the need to have large mirrors so you can see around the car with all three mirrors," Laansoo said.

The suit helped engineers realize that doors could be a challenge for elderly drivers, so they designed handles that were easy to grab.

"One thing we noticed with the third age suit — design changes that I've made really benefit everybody," Laansoo said. "Nobody is going to complain that dials are too large or a gauge is too easy to read or 'I wish the radio was a little harder to operate.' "