Do you suffer from carsickness? With electric and self-driving ones it will be worse

Do you suffer from carsickness?  With electric and self-driving ones it will be worse

About the 25-30% of the populationa figure that some consider underestimated, regularly suffers from motion sickness. Symptoms of this little-known disease include nausea, sweating, pale skin, hypothermia, headache, and vomiting. Mildly affected patients may also experience drowsiness, apathy, or decreased cognition. It is estimated that 60 to 70% of travelers will suffer from it at some point.

Motion sickness is most commonly experienced in cars, hence the common name of car sick. THE passengers they tend to feel bad because they are deprived of the ability to anticipate trajectoriesunlike drivers.

One would have thought that, in more than a century of automotive development, the problem of motion sickness should have been solved. But that is far from the case. While road vehicles continue to undergo technological metamorphoses, disruptions such as electrification, digitization and vehicle automation bring benefits, but also some problems.

In fact, some technological advances can create or worsen the feeling of imbalance and prevent the vehicle occupants from anticipating the itinerary. Consequentially, increase the risk of experiencing disease symptoms more frequently. Below are those whose effects are already documented.

Vehicle electrification: fewer reference points and more sudden movements

By its nature, an electric motor is smoother and quieter of a combustion engine. This advantage has the disadvantage that it prevents some motorists from assimilating the movement of the vehicle. For example, while in internal combustion engine cars we would associate acceleration with engine revs, electric cars deprive us of this point of reference. I am the vibrations are gone tooi of the combustion engine, which some perceive as relaxing.

Even the use of regenerative braking, which captures the kinetic energy of braking and converts it into electrical energy that charges the vehicle's high-voltage battery, can throw passengers off balance. The decelerations induced by this system are generally low-frequency, a driving force that typically causes discomfort.

Digital interiors that encourage distraction

Another technological advancement that induces motion sickness is the growing presence of increasingly large screens and numerous inside the vehicles. These screens they overload users with visual information, which discourages them from looking outside. Thus they lose the ability to perceive the "correct" visual signals - i.e. the external view of the vehicle - which allow them to correctly perceive their position in space. Which, in turn, induces motion sickness.

The rise of screens in cars is likely to increase in the coming years – there are vehicles that could even feature screens on glass surfaces or offer virtual reality experiences on board. This invasive environment can, in turn, impact passenger well-being. In fact, the mere knowledge that you're likely to get nauseous from screens can put stress on vulnerable passengers, with research linking up to 40 percent of motion sickness symptoms to passenger psychology.

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Autonomous driving and lack of anticipation

Even the race among automakers to create the first vehicle a fully autonomous driving is likely to make the problem worse. While today's vehicles are only partially automated, in the future they will be able to drive themselves. As mentioned above, this is problematic when we know that the act of driving is the best way to anticipate trajectories and curb symptoms.

Also, the disappearance of the cockpit it will make it possible to redesign vehicle interiors to make them more welcoming, like a living room on wheels. These new configurations will give passengers more freedom, allowing them for example to have the rear-facing seat to converse with the other occupants. However, in the collective unconscious, sitting with your back against the direction of travel is associated with the likelihood of getting sick. While research has shown that it makes no difference in forward-facing orientations, this is another idea that can constitute a psychological bias toward symptoms.

Another promise of the autonomous vehicle is that of allow its passengers to devote their "idle" travel time to productive activities or entertainment. The growing appeal of taxi and Uber travel, where users tend to look at their digital devices, goes hand in hand with this trend. Also in this case, such distractions dissuade passengers from looking out the windows at the scenery.

Finally, let's not forget that the incidence of motion sickness ultimately remains moderate in non-automated cars also thanks to the ability of drivers to adapt their driving style when passengers report discomfort. This human dimension is destined to disappear in autonomous vehicles, whose driving style will be less flexible and less natural than that of a human driver.

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Humans as the main obstacle to technological progress?

In the absence of effective means to mitigate in-car motion sickness, aggravated symptoms may ultimately lead consumers to reject such highly evolved vehicles. Considering the ethical, psychological and legal dimensions related to their development, it is possible that humans become the main obstacle to the adoption of these new types of vehicles.

For these reasons, in recent years, car manufacturers and suppliers have shown a growing interest in this phenomenon. Their aim is to better understand it in order to effectively relieve it, not out of public interest but because it could jeopardize the successful launch of their future products.

To date, the exact causes of motion sickness are not yet clear, prompting industrial research to focus on how to limit its occurrence. Countermeasures are currently being studied. The latter include the use of visual, auditory and tactile cues to help users better perceive and anticipate vehicle movements, but also the programming a comfortable driving style that mimics that of a human and limit sudden accelerations.

* PhD student on the topic of reducing motion sickness in cars, Belfort-Montbéliard University of Technology
This text is translated from The Conversation, the original here.

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