Can Technology Cure Car Sickness?

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Of the great many potential pitfalls of a driverless future, the one that’s rarely talked about is motion sickness. Jaguar Land Rover thinks it’s about time this changed; after all, if we don’t need to drive there’s a good chance we’ll instead be surfing the net, reading a book, or playing games. All things that are traditionally linked to motion sickness.

According to the NHS, motion sickness is a result of your brain receiving conflicting signals from your inner ear and your eyes, causing confusion and, ultimately, that sick feeling. One way to avoid it is to look at the horizon, but that’s not so easy when you’re sending an email or halfway through watching an episode of Breaking Bad.

To get started, Jaguar Land Rover collected 15,000 miles of motion sickness data, which included monitoring the impact of tasks such as checking emails when on the move. This, it says, allowed it to set a ‘baseline driving style for self-driving vehicles’ which, for example, minimises the need for frequent steering corrections to ensure smooth progress.

For the next step, in-car biometric sensors are used to measure physiological signals from the passengers, each of which is given a wellness score at the beginning of every journey. These sensors continue to monitor as the journey progresses, and ultimately allow the vehicle to know when a passenger is beginning to feel motion sick about a minute before they realise it themselves. This gives it a window of time in which to adjust a number of dynamic systems at its disposal, which in turn can reduce those feelings of motion sickness by up to 60 per cent, according to the research.

Jaguar Land Rover says that air-conditioning and satnav are examples of such dynamic systems. For example, activating the air-conditioning to keep the car cool can fight car sickness, as can using voice announcements on the satnav so that passengers are able to anticipate which way the car is about to turn. Adaptive suspension that can constantly adjust the ride quality to ensure a smooth drive is also beneficial, says the company.

Another option being explored is to have a satnav system that can suggest an optimum wellness route for passengers as an alternative to the usual speed, distance and economy settings.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Medical Officer, said: “This cutting-edge research has created a solution that, with its solid scientific foundation, can make travelling enjoyable, regardless of your susceptibility to motion sickness. As a parent of young children, who are most susceptible to car sickness, I am particularly excited by the benefits this research can have in making long journeys comfortable and stress-free for families.”

With driverless cars still an emerging technology you won’t be surprised to hear that this particular piece of research is ongoing. However, Jaguar Land Rover is keen to point out that many of its cars on sale today are already designed to help combat motion sickness thanks to features such as the aforementioned adaptive suspension, a wide range of seat adjustment, and the placement of the infotainment screen high up on the dash.


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