Tim Shults
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Self-Driving Cars May Increase Motion Sickness

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Google Driverless Car

The mere sight of this is autonomous Google car is already making us a little sick

A new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute claims that self-driving cars may, in addition to causing the collapse of the insurance industry and the prohibition of driving, lead to more motion sickness.

It’s not really the autonomous nature of the vehicle that would cause the queasiness, say researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, but rather the kind of activities that passengers would be engaging in if they didn’t have to drive.

According to the study, more than one-third of Americans surveyed said they would choose to do things that tend to increase motion sickness, like reading, texting, watching videos, doing work, and playing video games (with respondents in South Dakota planning on engaging in some really motion-intensive activities). As a result, U of M thinks that 6% to 12% of American adults in self-driving vehicles would experience “moderate or severe motion sickness.”

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion self-driving concept car

“Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles,” said Sivak. “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.”

“However, the frequency and severity of motion sickness is influenced by the activity that one would be involved in instead of driving.”

Sivak and Schoettle came up with a list of recommendations for ways that car companies could design autonomous vehicles to reduce the likelihood of motion sickness, which includes the suggestion, “eliminate swivel seats.”

Wait, what? Just because 6% of the population might get sick if they try reading a book in a car, that means the rest of us can’t have awesome swivel seats in our Mercedes-Benz F 015?

The lounge-like interior of the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle

They’ll have to pry these swivel seats from our cold, dead hands

This study seems to be making some strange conclusions. If someone gets sick when he tries to read something in a moving car, he has probably already learned that fact  about himself from being a passenger. As a result, he probably wouldn’t be one of the people who plans to text or play video games while riding in an autonomous vehicle—he’d be one of the over 60% of American adults who said they would watch the road, talk on the phone, or sleep while riding in one.

Come on, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, quit trying to take away our cool swivel seats just because you can’t handle them.

News Source: UMTRI