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Driverless Cars Could Cause Travel Sickness

By raccars Published

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Of all the technological and legislative obstacles facing the mass market take up of driverless cars, no-one could have anticipated that something as prosaic as travel sickness could hole the project below the waterline...

However, it seems that is what is happening, after a research project by Michigan University students advised that cases of travel sickness, more correctly known as kinetosis, are expected to go up by nearly a third for travellers in driverless cars. This has cast a huge shadow over the idea that drivers could suddenly discover hours of newly productive time to accomplish other work when freed from the tyranny of the steering wheel. Instead, they could be spending that time with their heads bent over paper bags.

The transportation research institute of the University of Michigan warns that motion sickness occurs as a result of conflicting messages between the eyes and the body's balance system. This commonly happens when a human is not in charge of their direction of movement. When driving, human beings can anticipate and control their directions, but as this is not the case with autonomous driving, travel sickness is more likely.

As part of the study, British drivers were questioned on how they felt about driverless cars. Twenty five per cent said they would refuse to travel in an autonomously controlled vehicle, while more than half of those who would agree to be driven by a computer claimed they would be watching the road instead of relaxing, working or spending time on other activities.

Fewer than 10% of the British drivers who would happily travel in a driverless car would be happy to read, a similar would sleep, 7% of autonomous car passengers would play with their mobile phones or talk and the rest would be working, playing games or watching television. However, the Michigan University study claims that any of these activities could potentially increase the risk of motion sickness.

The study concluded that the risk of travel sickness could be somewhat mitigated by intelligent vehicle design, including bigger windows to give better views of the road and reclining seats, as a prone position has been found to reduce the likelihood of travel sickness occurring. For those who do undertake work or other activities while riding in driverless cars, technology could be created to place visual stimulus or to move screens in time with the motion of the car, such as turns, braking and acceleration, to fool the brain into a feeling of control and so reduce travel sickness.

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