Self-driving cars linked to motion sickness

Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, possibly even Apple. The list of manufacturers planning to launch autonomous vehicles over the coming decade is rapidly growing.

Automakers say the new technology will keep drivers safer than ever on the nation's roads. But it could also make them sicker. Carsick, that is.

A new report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI, warns that as much as 12 percent of the U.S. population may experience motion sickness while riding in autonomous vehicles.

Woman in car with hand over mouth
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"Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles," UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle wrote in the report. They blamed three factors, notably the fact that, "By switching from driver to passenger, by definition, one gives up control over the direction of motion, and there are no remedies for this."

Anywhere from 6 percent to 12 percent of U.S. adults might experience some degree of carsickness "at some time," in a self-driving vehicle, the report said, with some suffering extreme bouts quite frequently.

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How to address the problem? The report says travelers susceptible to the problem might try closing their eyes or even sleeping. And, if necessary, they might try commonly available medications. Some travelers also have had success with bands that tap into pressure points on the wrist.

The good news, the report indicates, is that autonomous vehicles could be programmed to deliver a smoother ride than a conventional vehicle, a step that's also likely to reduce motion sickness.