Car Sickness is a Thing with Driverless Cars

I admit it I suffer from motion sickness, especially when it is hot out, and the sun hurts my eyes. Reading sometime will do it. Sometimes, this happens in a car, definitely happens in a boat, and I don’t think I will ever be able to use a VR headset, unfortunately.

In a car, I do all that they say…look at one point in the direction you are moving and not at the moving landscape out the side window, use the wrist bands, take medicine, get enough sleep, don’t eat too much and stay cool.

Apparently, driverless cars promote motion sickness, and this week Volkswagen recently announced they want to do something about this. Good luck!

According to VW, car sickness is caused by a confusion in the motion that the eyes see, and the body feels. Yep, that is a good description, but I think this is a bit simplified. There are so many factors that go into motion sickness.

Motion sickness is caused by a conflict between signals of various senses. Eyes observe the environment; inner ears sense we are moving, but if the two signals don’t match…boom—you feel like you want to die and cannot wait until the car stops (even then it doesn’t go away right away).

Oh, yeah—facing backwards also increases motion sickness 100 percent during normal urban driving apparently. Also, not being able to see the horizon out the front window can be a big issue. As I said before, many factors go into motion sickness, and if you are susceptible, you want to avoid at all costs.

Luckily, when you drive, you don’t generally have the green gills because you are in control of the car, actively driving, planning for what is next—not confused but activated in the process. As a passenger, your focus is on something else besides where the vehicle is going.

VW researchers also say that motion sickness could affect up to a third of all passengers. When (or if) we become passengers in driverless cars, this could be a problem, especially if the car is shared…think about it. Oh, yeah—smells can also trigger motion sickness.

Here are some ideas VW researchers are working on to help driverless car passengers with motion sickness:

  • Special movable seats that react to driving conditions –that makes me sick already just thinking about it.
  • LED light strip on the door panel that illuminates braking or acceleration—Strobe lights or alarm lights can also trigger motion sickness…I don’t want sparkly lights to train me not to be sick.

Other researchers have other ideas besides the directional lighting, which shows which way the car will turn.

  • Voice cues of what is going on with a SatNav –I don’t know how this would stop someone from feeling sick, but it might be nice to know where you are.
  • Virtual horizon that displays where the real horizon should be–could work if it doesn’t move quickly like one of those water based compasses.
  • Vibration device behind the ear for shorter journeys–That sounds unpleasant.
  • Individualized training so that you can multi-task as a passenger—Nope.
  • Individualized adaptions for the prevention and/or recovery of motion sickness—that is the weird thing about motion sickness—when you get it, it is rather hard to get rid of sitting in a car or boat.

So, is this all they got? All the above ideas seem a bit nauseating to me.

My solution—drive the car myself.

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One Response to “Car Sickness is a Thing with Driverless Cars”

  1. David Holzman says:

    I’m surprised I didn’t think of this. I do occasionally get car sick when I’m not the driver. Especially when my father was elderly, I had to drive very momly (like a prototypical mother) so that he wouldn’t get car sick. But he certainly never had a problem when he was the driver.

    The one time I did get car sick driving was when I drove a Tesla Model S. The acceleration was too fast, and the handling was too responsive. But I think the thing that bothered me most was the way the car would abruptly slow down when I eased up on the accelerator.

    Now that this has been brought to my attention, it’s easy to imagine getting car sick in a driverless car.