Autonomous car down-time may make us sick, study warns

Autonomous cars sound like a great idea, right? No driving, just shuffling around safely thanks to an always-aware network of connected cars. Those self-driving cars hold a lot of promise, but we've not considered all the angles, it seems. What about car sickness? Not driving or riding could lead to down-time spent doing things like reading. In a recent study, U-M Transportation Research asked more than 3,200 how they'd spend their time not driving an autonomous car. Turns out, we may make ourselves sick by letting the machines drive.

The survey spanned six countries — United States, India, China, Japan, Great Britain, Australia — and hoped to find out how we'd spend our non-driving, in-car lives. When asked what types of activities we'd engage in, some of which are known to cause motion sickness (reading, texting, watching movies, etc.), roughly one-third said they'd do things that could make them ill.

The result? About 6-12% of us can expect to be ill from doing things in autonomous cars we probably shouldn't. The fix, according to the scientists conducting the study? Lots of visibility.

It's something we saw with Mercedes' F 015 autonomous car. Rather than massive windows (which could be a safety hazard), Mercedes mounted cameras outside and displays inside to give us a representation of life around us. Using car-mounted cams, we could get a real-time feed of what's around us, and even a look at places we're considering for our next stop.

The study also suggested car manufacturers make displays that encourage us to face forward, and eliminate swiveling seats that could have us moving our heads too much.

Source: UMTRI