Self-Driving Cars Could Lead To Annoying Motion Sickness For Passengers

If you already suffer from motion sickness from reading while being driven, you can expect things to get worse when you read in autonomous car. Researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute are cautioning that people who are prone to motion sickness will want to avoid reading or watching TV while traveling in self-driving cars.

“Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles,” said U-M Transportation Research Institute researcher Michael 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.”

Volvo is testing autonomous cars.
Volvo's self-driving test car in Beijing. Image credit: Volvo

Sivak points out, however, that whether you experience motion sickness (an how much) in an autonomous car depends somewhat what you’re doing – watching a movie might not be a good plan if you tend to get queasy in the car.

Of course, manufacturers have plenty of time to find ways to reduce the likelihood of motion sickness in autonomous cars. Sivak and his research partner, Brandon Schoettle say that having forward facing seats and transparent windows are among features used in existing cars that would benefit riders in autonomous vehicles.