On the Daily: No more motion sickness

Sunday, January 21, 2018 - 2:52pm

Reading in a moving car can be an issue for a lot of passengers who suffer from motion sickness, but University of Michigan researchers announced Friday they may have a solution. Not only are the researchers looking for innovations to help with motion sickness itself, but they are looking at how these systems can be useful in self-driving cars.

According to the Michigan Medicine, motion sickness occurs when the body sends conflicting signals to the brain, which often happens when a passenger is not watching the road when inside a moving vehicle. Researchers predict that more adults will experience motion sickness in self-driving cars.

In 2015, researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute asked approximately 3,200 adults from six countries what activities they would do in a self-driving car. The study found a third of Americans would partake in behavior –– reading, watching TV, working –– that would increase the possibility of motion sickness.

In a 2016 UMTRI report, researchers asserted potential gains in productivity that self-driving cars encourage could be hindered by increased cases of motion sickness. The researchers suggested manufacturers of self-driving vehicles should look into ways to prevent these instances.

University researchers said Friday they were granted a patent for a universal motion sickness countermeasure system. The system would work to counteract the conflicting signals between the brain and a passenger’s eyes by imitating what the passenger would see outside of the car.

Michael Sivak, founder and director of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation, and Brandon Schoettle, a project manager at UMTRI, said they are currently working with U-M Tech Transfer to market their system to automakers.

According to Sivak, this technology will be especially crucial for self-driving cars.

“This is more important with the introduction of autonomous vehicles,” Sivak said in a University press release. “In autonomous cars, everyone will be a passenger. So, you will have a larger potential pool of sick people. The protection that drivers have received from driving won't be there anymore… the productivity gains that the proponents of self-driving vehicles are talking about may not happen if we don't address the motion sickness problem.”