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Travel sickness in cars is a common problem for many motorists, but it may be set to go against the benefits of autonomous cars in the future.
A recent study from the University of Michigan has predicted a 27.8 per cent rise in the number of people suffering from sickness, dizziness and vomiting when travelling in a driverless car. In addition, autonomous cars could rekindle travel sickness in those passengers who suffered from it as kids.
One of the purposes of autonomous cars is to free up a driver’s time controlling a vehicle, but with the prospect of travel sickness, this may not prove to be the case.
The study by Dr Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the US university’s transportation research institute said that motion sickness – or kinetosis – most often occurs when the brain gets different indications from the eyes and the balance system. Symptoms occur when occupants are unable to control or anticipate the direction or movement of a car – the chance of this happening is reduced when a driver has full control of a vehicle, but in an automated vehicle, the hands and feet off nature of the car means the chances of getting sick are increased.
In addition, the survey found that almost one quarter of Britons said they wouldn’t drive in an automated car, and of those who would, 57% said they would feel compelled to watch the road. Whilst some respondents were far more relaxed about the idea of being driven, with almost 10% admitting they would be happy to read. A further 10% were happy to sleep, whilst 7% said they would speak on the phone, text or carry out activities such as watching TV, playing games or working. However, the research concluded that aside from sleeping, other activities carried out would all put occupants at a higher risk of being travel sick.
“By switching from driver to passenger, by definition, one gives up control over the direction of motion, and there are no remedies for this,” the study’s authors warn.
Car designers have concluded that in order to avoid motion sickness in driverless cars, a number of key design features should be added such as larger windows to provide passengers with a better all round view of the road and reclining seats – people lying down are less affected.
As scientists continue to work on overcoming the challenges presented by automated vehicles, a recent report from KPMG suggests driverless cars could boost the UK economy by £51 billion a year by 2030, with £20 billion generated from people being able to use their time more efficiently.
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