Google and Apple are, apparently, the new Audi, GM, and/or Ford. All five companies—among others—are developing self-driving cars. Unfortunately, for at least 10 percent of the population, riding in one of these technological terrors is a one-way ticket to motion sickness. Plenty of other folks will likely die in crashes in them, too, but no one’s done a scientific study on that yet.
U of Michigan is the New Ralph Nader
The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute has revealed the findings of a new study, showing that roughly one in 10 adults riding in a self-driving car would “often, usually, or always experience some level of motion sickness.”
For those that would argue that a little motion sickness isn’t too terrible a price to pay for riding in a computer-controlled automocar, the report states that most sufferers experience “moderate to severe motion sickness” whilst riding with a robot. Sounds like fun!
“Not enough attention has been paid to this important issue,” said Michael Sivak, co-author of the study and director of Worldwide Sustainable Transportation at the U of M TRI, in an email to Fortune magazine.
Mobile Devices to Blame
One of the “benefits” of riding in a self-driving car is that it frees the passenger up to read, talk on the phone, text, watch videos, play games, and other things many folks do while driving anyway, but in an at least somewhat safer context. If nothing else, it makes it so people can get from Point A to Point B without being distracted by such annoyances as the actual world around them. Why look at the real-life things all around you when you can stick your face in a digital screen?
However, all that face sticking and mobile devicing requires the eyes to be focused on the stupid, time-sucking, life-robbing screen. This, more often than not, leads to the motion sickness self-driving car passengers experience. It messes with the vestibular system, you see.
“It is an issue that needs to be dealt with, especially since being able to do many of the activities that increase motion sickness is touted as one of the benefits of self-driving vehicles,” Sivak stated via email.
This writer would not (and/or will not) be the least bit surprised when many people choose to get sick and barf all over themselves rather than put away their precious mobile devices. Expect #pukedinaselfdrivingcar to show up in your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds any day now.