Driverless vehicle passengers may have to be trained to cope with motion sickness

January 22 2020

An ITS (UK) meeting has heard that many of the perceived benefits of driverless vehicles may be limited due to the propensity for people to experience motion sickness while completing standard tasks as a passenger.

Meeting at the University of Warwick, the User Behaviour Forum heard how desirable activities such as completing work-based tasks, reading, watching films, texting or emailing all have been found to induce motion sickness for a significant number of people when traveling in a car.

Joseph Smyth from WMG, University of Warwick explained that all participants experienced at least moderate motion sickness whilst reading as a passenger in a self-driving car study. This, he said, casts doubt on some of the occupant-focused benefits trumpeted for the technology. In fact, he said, the only activities that did not induce sickness in a person not needing to drive was sleeping and looking out of the window.

To overcome this, the research Joseph is carrying out has found that a series of cognitive training tasks (similar to brain training puzzles) was effective in reducing motion sickness by more than 56% in its first iteration. Other research looking at visual, audible and haptic motion cues to overcome motion sickness are underway. He suggests that without addressing motion sickness, the productivity benefits promoted by supporters of driverless vehicles may not be as valuable as expected.

The meeting also heard how inclusiveness needs to be factored into the design of driverless vehicles from first principles, how journey behaviour might change with the advent of CAVs and about the changes in driving skills because of automation.

“When designing new transport solutions we need to remember to concentrate on the user and not get caught up purely with the technology design,” said Forum Chair Siddartha Khastgir of WMG, University of Warwick.  “This meeting gave us a sobering reminder that human beings might well not react in the way that we would like and it’s up to us to change our focus to take their needs and personalities into account.”

“We have plenty of forums concentrating on technology,” added ITS (UK) Secretary General Jennie Martin, “But the User Behaviour Forum is vital to bring a human context into all the work we do.  Although this meeting largely concentrated on driverless technology, the forum’s remit is for all aspects of user behaviour around transport, so I look forward to many more meetings discussing a range of reactions to ITS innovations.  This group’s work is another way our members can benefit from being part of ITS (UK) by sharing not only the technological work being done, but its real-world uses.”

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