Motion sickness makes travel very uncomfortable. In the future, when cars become self-driving, many hope to use the time to work, watch videos or read. However, when drivers become passengers, they may become too queasy to do anything at all.
Automakers, universities and suppliers are developing ways to understand, test and reduce motion sickness.
Deep Data Coming from UMTRI
The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) is researching ways to quantify the many factors of motion sickness and its effects on humans. Currently, the National Institute for Health predicts one-third of people have some kind of motion sickness. But that number may be higher because, generally, drivers do not experience motion sickness until they become passengers, says Monica Jones, an assistant research scientist in the Biosciences Group at UMTRI.
Motion sickness symptoms can include eye pressure, discomfort, the inability to concentrate, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness or nausea.
Early UMTRI research indicated that younger people were more susceptible to car sickness and reading made the motion sickness worse, says Jones. The first study was done on the MCity test track and now researchers have a road trip and highway test designed with the turns and braking of typical commutes.
Research participants rate their motions sickness on a 0-10 scale. Sensors record vehicle acceleration and geo-spatial location and participant’s physiological response, including sweat, skin temperature and heart rate. Cameras and sensors also record passenger head movement and posture.
Causes for motion sickness could be thermal, vision or motion, says Jones. She notes that it is very important to include a large data set with people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. UMTRI researchers are also looking at non-responders who don’t experience motion sickness.
Jaguar Land Rover’s Adaptive Dynamics
According to Spencer Salter, wellness technology researcher at Jaguar Land Rover, motion sickness affects over 70 per cent of people. JLR’s previous research showed that they were able to reduce the effects of motion sickness by 60 per cent through dynamic cabin settings, using a complex algorithm wellness score, based on biometric sensor data and motion data.
JLR also found that moving the touchscreen or smartphone up higher by 10 cm can cut car sickness by forty per cent. Turning on voice navigation helps passengers to anticipate a change in direction. ‘Adaptive Dynamics’ helps to reduce nausea because it removes low-frequency motion from the road.
Cooling seats also helps. JLR researchers are planning on updating their research later this year.
Adapting to Different Driving Styles
ZF is working with neuro-technologists in Saarland, Germany to investigate how to detect motion sickness at an early stage and create a driving style that avoids motion sickness based on individual driving styles.
In several studies, ZF analyzed the physiological markers that show the highest correlation with the subjective perception of motion sickness by individuals. ZF also examined how this correlates to the driving dynamics of a vehicle. Physiological indicators include changes in the body such as temperature and galvanic skin response.
The research currently employs a set of sensors inside the vehicle along with wearables for non-invasive measurements, reports Jennifer Kallweit, technology, product and heritage communications at ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
“Since individuals react differently, we created an algorithm based on each passengers reaction, we hope to be able to use the information to adapt the driving style of an automated vehicle in terms of longitudinal, lateral and vertical movements of the vehicle,” says Kallweit.
She notes that making a motion-sickness free riding experience is important for ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’ applications and helps to improve the individual driving experience.
Quelling Queasiness Through Glasses and Light
Another way to help with motion sickness is by wearing ‘Boarding Glasses’ that have been tested by the French Navy.
‘Boarding Glasses’ target the root cause of the motion sickness issue – a sensory mismatch – says Antoine Jeanin, co-founder and CEO of Boarding Glasses. He says, in a car, your vision is confined so your eyes can’t get enough movement information while your inner ears perceive the acceleration of your body. This conflict creates a crisis for your brain, resulting in headaches, nausea, and other symptoms.
The blue liquid on the front of the eyes and the sides of Boarding Glasses form artificial horizons allowing the eyes to see motion. After ten to twelve minutes wearing the glasses while looking at an immovable object, the mind synchronises with the movement and is perceived by the inner ear. After symptoms are relieved, the glasses can be removed and shared with someone else in the vehicle.
“35,000 people use ‘Boarding Glasses’ today with total satisfaction,” says Jeanin.
Citroën has licensed the Boarding Glasses technology. 5.5, a collective design studio based in Paris designed the Seetroën collection based on the technology. Seetroën glasses were launched in July 2018 and were so popular that in May of this year, Citroën launched the limited-edition model, Seetroën S19.
“Autonomous driving will make things worse in terms of motion sickness when front passengers face backwards and there is increased use of displays. ‘Boarding Glasses’ target the cause of motion sickness, they will work for sure in self-driving cars,” says Jeanin.
The company is working on an embedded lighting system called Boarding Light, based on the same principles as Boarding Glasses. A set of LED columns is integrated into the car.
The smart lighting responds to the moves of the car and creates an artificial horizon for all the passengers.