While safety is the number one concern of those working on autonomous cars, there’s another hurdle that self-driving car engineers are working on — alleviating motion sickness. The German automotive company, Volkswagen, is taking necessary steps to address the potential issues of self-driving cars causing passengers to become nauseous.
Maybe you haven’t thought about motion sickness as an issue when riding in an autonomous vehicle, but if you give it some more thought, it makes sense.
Have you ever felt nauseous riding shotgun after looking down at your phone for an extended period of time? It’s the same principle here. When the body can’t anticipate change in speed and/or direction and take time to make necessary adaptations, the result can be a queasy feeling, or worse.
Drivers can more readily adapt their bodies to avoid motion sickness while driving, but if no one is driving, that’s one more person in the car who is susceptible to feeling nauseous.
Research Now, Enact Later
Though our favorite BMW engineers are working towards a fully autonomous vehicle, the mainstream reveal of fully autonomous vehicles is still at least a decade away. One of the biggest hurdles will be legislation after the technology fully rolls out. However, VW is thinking ahead and working to prevent nausea from putting a barrier between people and self-driving cars.
So how are they doing this? VW is performing tests by having passengers watch a video on a tablet while a car takes a 20-minute drive around a track. The passenger is connected to sensors that detect changes in heart rate, skin temperature and changes in skin tone.
These test subjects say they didn’t think they were particularly sensitive to motion sickness in the past, but they admitted to feeling the effects of it after only a few minutes of watching the video on the tablet while the car moved.
Researchers are exploring the potential of using adjustable seats that can react to driving changes. Another thought would be to install an LED light strip on the door panel that illuminates in green and red, which would provide a visual cue for the passenger to expect braking or acceleration.
While these early tests and studies are helpful, they will only pave the way for more thorough, in-depth experiments. For example, Jaguar has already begun some research into autonomous motion-sickness tech, too. Perhaps we’ll see Bimmers with this technology in the near future!
Even with the mainstream future of self-driving cars a decade away, we might eventually thank VW for developing anti-sickness tech for our favorite German cars.