Motion Sickness: A Future Issue We’ll Have With Autonomous Cars

If you’ve ever been on a bus or coach and started feeling dizzy and sick from looking down at your book or whatever it is that you were reading, you’re definitely not alone. It’s definitely a problem and one that is only going to become more evident as autonomous cars become more prolific.

It all has to do with the fluid in your ears that helps you maintain balance, as it gets sloshed around it sends mixed signals to your brain. Apparently, some 6 to 12 percent of Americans are expected to suffer from this in self driving cars, but it seems like a far more common problem than that and it’s surely present outside the US as well.

Michael Sivak, the U-M Transportation Research Institute, said: “Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles. The reason is that the three main factors contributing to motion sickness—conflict between vestibular (balance) and visual inputs, inability to anticipate the direction of motion and lack of control over the direction of motion—are elevated in self-driving vehicles.”

He explains, though, that the severity of the condition will vary depending on specific conditions and the activity that one is doing while on the move.

What could manufacturers do to reduce the problem in the future? Well, they can “design self-driving vehicles to lessen the likelihood of motion sickness: maximize the visual field with large, transparent windows; mount transparent video and work displays that require passengers to face forward; and eliminate swivel seats, restrict head motion and install fully reclining seats.”

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