Motion sickness will be a real concern for driverless car passengers

By Shawn Knight
Apr 9, 2015
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  1. driverless driverless cars self driving car motion sickness autonomous car

    Self-driving cars are coming and when they do, some may need to bring their own barf bag. A recent study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) found that autonomous vehicle passengers may be prone to motion sickness.

    In a traditional car, the nauseated feeling of motion sickness is most often felt by passengers as they’re not able to anticipate the direction of motion like a driver is. In a driverless car, obviously everyone is a passenger and without having to pilot a vehicle, people will undoubtedly find other things to do like play on their smartphones. Such acts are even more likely to cause motion sickness.

    Just how widespread could the issue be?

    driverless driverless cars self driving car motion sickness autonomous car

    According to the study, six to 10 percent of driverless car passengers are likely to experience moderate to severe motion sickness. Those that do experience it are likely to feel the effects every time they hitch a ride.

    Researchers said one way to mitigate motion sickness would be to design vehicles in which passengers could lie completely flat on their backs. Other options include making it easier for riders to see outside the car, avoiding swivel seats and limiting head motion.

    Few know more about self-driving technology than UMTRI researchers. If you recall, the team there built a simulated city on a 32 acre lot last summer to test autonomous car technology in conditions that mimic the real world.

    Permalink to story.

  2. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    I don't see where there is any differences in who or what drives the car, as far as the passengers are concerned.
    treetops and Kibaruk like this.
  3. One difference I can see, Clifford, is that normally you can tell (to a certain extent), from the driver's body language, what he's going to do. I can imagine that it might make a significant difference if the steering-wheel is turning on its own, the brake-pedal is being pressed with no warning, and so forth.
  4. As a paramedic that rides backwards a lot at high rates of speed plus erratic steering, you get used to it pretty quickly.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  5. Forg0t2

    Forg0t2 TS Booster Posts: 147   +25

    Well I guess if you start looking at the figures it will match since instead of 4 people, 5 people will now be motion sick in a vehicle. so thats an increase of +1. :p
  6. AnonymousSurfer

    AnonymousSurfer TS Guru Posts: 451   +37

    I think it's because driverless cars aren't as smooth with their motions. Some people who have ridden in prototypes have said that they break and turn hard. One person said it felt like they were driving with a first time driver, if you can imagine the feeling of that. Once driverless cars become the norm I'd say this problem will go away.
  7. ETF Soldier

    ETF Soldier TS Guru Posts: 372   +78

    The only difference is that the driver is now another passenger, and so will also be subject to Motion Sickness is all, and I guess if you're a passenger in a driver-car then then you might pay more attention to the road or driver and therefore anticipate the car's movements more-so than a driverless car.
    MilwaukeeMike likes this.
  8. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,114   +1,378

    I can see the way it is going, with technologies leaping forward fast, the human presence becomes more and more of the weakest link.

    I believe that the way of the future isn't in driverless cars as much as in not having to drive as much any more, owing to fully virtualized communications.
  9. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,428   +472

    Out of hundreds of people I've transported over the years (Used to work for a transportation company while I studied), I only met 1 who got motion sickness and it was when she read emails on the car.

    I don't see why we would be more prone to motion sickness just because there isn't a person driving the car, well you say it breaks and turns hard, it isn't suposed to be like this when it goes into public usage (I hope so) so that shouldn't be a problem. And I still don't see why.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  10. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Addict Posts: 135   +50

    This is a really strange story. Motion sickness is caused by your brain receiving conflicting signals, say, your inner ear registering movement but your eyes not (if you're reading, typically). The brain perceives the mis-match in the same way it would if you're poisoned, so it attempts to eject (or project, in this case!) the contents of your stomach.

    I can't really see what difference it would make whether or not it's a person driving the car.
    wiyosaya and coolazeem like this.
  11. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,729   +1,093

    There's a lot of skepticism about this, but I think it is significant because most of the time an average adult is in a car, they are driving. Look around you on the roads in a given day, most cars have only 1 person - the driver.

    I would hope they can combat this by just allowing the person to actually drive the car if they start to feel sick. I know someone who will puke regularly if riding on a winding, hilly road, but is fine if she drives it. If you're one of those people you would not be buying one of these cars - (whenever they'll be available)
  12. amstech

    amstech TechSpot Enthusiast Posts: 1,440   +593

    Really? I couldn't disagree more.
    Some people jerk a car around when they drive (mostly woman, not sexist just saying) others like myself take things/corners smoothly when I have passengers for their convenience, dodge bumps/cracks in the road etc.
    How do self-driving cars handle bad roads, crappy weather, lane changes, aggressive drivers, dipping low shoulders and sharp turns?
  13. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,159   +67

    But I would guess that 100% of these single drivers have been a passenger at some point.

    I'm sure there will be some people who will have a problem with self-driving cars which they don't when driving themselves. I couldn't find how they came by the figure in this article. I would suspect it's lower. Still, I don't much see the difference between this and other public transportation, and why it would be more of a concern.
  14. ETF Soldier

    ETF Soldier TS Guru Posts: 372   +78

    You can assume there is some bias in this - you can assume that people who get motion sickness would generally avoid a profession that required frequent use of transport, or at least transport with strangers.
  15. cmbjive

    cmbjive TS Booster Posts: 777   +137

    I would think the more significant concern is whether people will adopt driverless cars.
  16. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,729   +1,093

    yeah, and when the driver is driving too fast for your tastes, you can just ask them to slow down. Will driverless cars have different settings. 'NASCAR", 'Teenager', 'Sunday Drive' and 'Grandma' perhaps?

    yeah, and those prone to motion sickness probably felt motion sick. And they probably do on public transportation, and they probably don't when they drive themselves. And this article is about those people will no longer have an option for transportation that fixes their motion sickness if they were to get a self-driving car.
  17. Just look to Disney or Six Flags or NASA. All of them have some form of technology to combat motion sickness. This won't be a major issue for driverless cars. Not for long.

    The real issue, still, is how safe are they? How prone are they to outsiders with malicious intent (especially for the sensors)?
  18. Ferd Berffle

    Ferd Berffle TS Rookie

    The solution is to ride the bullet train that takes the place of the driverless cars for distance and take improved mass transit at your local destination. This is just another scheme by Big Business to sell more oil by divide and conquer techniques. Suburban sprawl is the result of the "nuclear family" myth propagated after WW2 that also led to corporate agriculture and the rise of synthetic food and environmentally caused cancers. Spend a little more time riding your bike and studying history instead of playing video games and you may be able to apply your energies to something worthwhile like curbing global climate change. Just watch "Metropolis" if you want to see where your "driverless car" will take you.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  19. Emexrulsier

    Emexrulsier TS Guru Posts: 503   +42

    This is no different to sat in the back of a car or sat in a bus. Rubbish what people are saying about being aware of what a driver is doing. This article was probably made by some scaremonger and nothing more.

    One thing I don't like about automated cars is at some point the car is going to have to decide when to kill you....

    Let's say you was driving a car and felt you was going to loose control maybe due to unforeseen circumstances, maybe ice on the road or a child runs out to get a ball, you swerve and your car is heading straight for a tree, if you hit this tree you will surely die. To the left and right of the tree are groups of pedestrians, swerving to dodge this tree you are surely hit some of them, some maybe injured some maybe killed but you will surely survive. Your natural instincts would make you swerve hitting the people. The automated car on the other had will already decided that one life is better than multiple and ram you straight into that tree.

    Also how does insurance work, who's to blame in a crash..
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2015
  20. Chris Westland

    Chris Westland TS Rookie

    Seriously?? "6 to 10 percent of driverless car passengers are likely to experience moderate to severe motion sickness. Those that do experience it are likely to feel the effects every time they hitch a ride." Sounds like a 'research study' funded by Detroit's auto companies. Detroit doesn't have self-driving tech to rival Tesla, Google or other new players, and thus they fund the cheap and dirty alternative -- research that claims Google's cars will make you sick. Why would a self-driving car cause motion sickness, but a taxi ride would not?

    This is a study best ignored.
    cliffordcooley and Kibaruk like this.
  21. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822


    I'm having fun with the comments though.
    schumi and Kibaruk like this.
  22. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,159   +67

    I didn't get the last "if". Surely if they were to get a self-driving car, they not only had an option but chose the self-driving car out of all the options. If you're talking about a future in which all cars are driverless, I'm not sure that will happen, and if it does, there will likely be solutions to the problem by that time.
  23. schumi

    schumi TS Rookie

    I have motion sickness. The doctors said when I was young that it will didn't. It's the same as I was young. I just learned how to manage it. I cannot even ride the horses carousel for the children :)
    The problem is with the internal ear. Your eyes see the change in movement but the brain cannot. When I'm driving I have no problem because I'm the one that's accelerating or braking and, of course, my brain can position my body in space. Triangulation :) If I take the bus I must have a minimum of 2 points of eye contact: one or two outside and one inside the bus :)...3 is best. The most important for me during travel is to look forward because it's easier for my brain to " triangulate " my position in space regarding to the movement of the bus :)...Sounds funny but people treat car sickness like it's not a problem. My mom was giving me lemon juice :)) when the only thing I needed was to look forward:)).
    If I'm driving and the vehicle slides can induce car sickness...but it's compensated by adrenaline :)...that's why I can ride some of the joy rides :D...but nor the slow rotating ones which are the worse :))
    You cannot read (or have nice conversation in the back of the bus)...because that means taking loosing your space positioning :). So's boring taking the bus or riding the car as a passenger. I can sleep only if I fall asleep :)...or graduatelly fall asleep :) (of course not when I'm driving :))).
    Train is different because you have less sudden actions, but you can feel a little sick during braking or accelerating. Planes are different only when it reaches constant altitude. Until then it's a joy ride in my brain :) ... or when it hits some nasty turbulence with altitude loss :)
    You can take all the pills in the world :) for the unbelievers NASA has something called intensive training :) I managed to train myself for my car sickness...only they do it or a bigger scale for people that don't have this problem.
    The only solution is a smooth ride and a visual reference that announces the passenger that the car is breaking or accelerating....I would make it of different intensities so logic can dictate the brain to take the necessary changes in positioning :)
    I'm hoping that this clears a little what car sickness is and that is not only present in cars :)...Hopefully we will see an improvement in the comments...for better or worse :))
  24. schumi

    schumi TS Rookie

    Your eyes see movement but cannot quantify the correction in space and time positioning. So when your brain adds the inner year info with the eye position it gets a divided by zero error :)). The actually feeling is like you become lost in space :) and loose focus altogether and feel the need to grab something to stabilize yourself...
  25. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,428   +472

    Wow... smilies everywhere... You could've just said the second paragraph and the one before the last, minus some smilies and it would've made perfect sense.

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