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by Matt Campbell

Autonomous cars will undoubtedly change the way people live, but they could also make for a queasy future, a study by the University of Michigan has found.

The U-M Transportation Research Institute ran a survey of more than 3200 people – across the US, India, China, Japan, Great Britain and Australia – which aimed to see what people would do while they were in an autonomous car.

Researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle found that many respondents would read, watch movies or television, play games, work or use their phones to text people – and these actions would “increase the likelihood and severity of motion sickness”.

Sivak and Schoettle found more than one third of US respondents, more than half of the Indian contingent, 40 per cent of Chinese respondents and between 26 and 30 per cent of those asked in Japan, Great Britain and Australia were likely to perform these actions.

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According to the researchers, this would see between six and 12 per cent of people to “experience moderate or severe motion sickness at some time”.

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

The findings suggested 60 per cent of American autonomous car passengers would “watch the road, talk on the phone or sleep”, which “would not necessarily lead to motion sickness”.

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According to the researchers, about the same percentage of Chinese respondents would sleep, watch the road or talk on the phone, while a higher proportion would do so in Japan, Great Britain and Australia. The tech-obsessed nation of India would be least likely to sleep, call or watch the road, the report found.

The findings were backed by some recommendations for car makers, including “maximising the visual field with large, transparent windows; mount transparent video and work displays that require passengers to face forward; and eliminate swivel seats, restrict head motion and install fully reclining seats”.

A number of brands are working on autonomous vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo and internet company Google.

Do you think you’d get car sick in an autonomous vehicle?




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