Motion sickness is not generally a problem faced by many. However, with the advent of self-driving vehicles, in the future, passengers will be focusing their attention on doing various other activities within the cars such as reading, writing, socializing and other tasks. Working in the car, especially activities like reading and writing, do tend to induce motion sickness in most people. And Uber is already preparing for the issue.
Earlier this year, Uber announced its plans to buy 24,000 autonomous vehicles from Volvo SUVs in order to keep up with the anticipated shift to self-driven vehicles. A recently published patent awarded to Uber demonstrates that the company is indeed serious about its plans.
The patent describes a “sensory stimulation system for autonomous vehicles” with which Uber plans to use vibrating and moving seats, the flow of air targeting the face or other parts of the body, and light bars and screens to prevent passengers from feeling travel sick.
Self-driving cars are expected to be slightly uncomfortable rides for passengers at the beginning since these will focus on safety more than anything else. So the rides could be jerky with brakes being applied often. Uber’s system will look to distract passengers from these effects using air flow and lights.
For instance, the seats could vibrate when breaking, or “a number of motors can control pitch, roll and/or yaw of the seat” in response to turns. Uber proposes using either “light bars” mounted in the ceiling or doors, or screens around the cabin, to show the vehicle’s intentions so that passengers know when the car is about to turn, accelerate or brake.
Research says that controlling air flow can, in fact, reduce motion sickness, but no such finding has been recorded for seat vibrations. Whether the system will work is yet to be seen, but one of the advantages of a vehicle driven by computers is that the machine knows exactly what it’s going to do next, and can hence cue its travel sickness system accordingly as well.