Driverless cars pose travel sickness risk

Driverless cars pose travel sickness risk

Travel sickness could put the brakes on driverless cars, new research suggests.

A study from the University of Michigan suggests the number of people suffering from nausea, dizziness and vomiting could rise significantly when travelling in vehicles in which computers do the driving.

It means commuters hoping to do some work or check emails as they get from A to B may not have as much free time as they think.


A 27.8% jump in the number of people experiencing motion sickness is predicted if driverless cars become a reality.

The complaint typically occurs when the brain gets different indications from the eyes and the balance system.

Being unable to anticipate or control the direction of movement can also bring on the symptoms. While the chance of this happening is reduced when a driver has control of a vehicle, the nature of automated cars suggests a heightened risk of queasiness.

Authors Dr Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, who work at the university's transportation research institute, warn there is no true cure for motion sickness, regardless of which remedies or techniques you may try.

Watching the road

Even though one of the main anticipated benefits of driverless cars is their ability to free up time spent controlling a vehicle, the researchers suggest as many of 57% of us would spend the time travelling watching the road.

Around 10% would take the opportunity to read, while a similar proportion would use the time to catch up on sleep.

Some 7% would talk or text, communicating with family, friends or work colleagues, and the remainder would use the time for a number of activities including watching TV, playing games or working.

Anything but watching the road or sleeping is likely to enhance a person's risk of suffering from travel sickness.

With the introduction of driverless technology seemingly not too far on the horizon, researchers claim car designers could help reduce the chances of motion sickness by getting clever when it comes to design features.

They suggest larger windows, so passengers have better views of what is happening on the road around them, as well as seats that face forwards or recline as people lying down are less likely to be affected.

Copyright Press Association 2015 (University of Michigan)