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The bane of self-driving cars? Motion sickness

Complex road systems, laws and the weather are among a number of difficulties facing self-driving cars, but it seems there may be a problem much closer to home.

A study by Dr Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) claims one in ten people will “often, usually, or always experience motion sickness” while riding in an autonomous car.

The study notes that motion sickness is caused by three things: an inability to anticipate movement, a conflict between the sense of balance and visual information and a lack of control. Riding in a self-driving car could tick all those boxes, leading to that horrible queasy feeling.

It helps little that having nothing to do while being driven along will result in 37 per cent of US folk using the free time to do something that makes the condition worse such as watching a film or reading, the report added.

The study also noted that between six and 12 per cent of people in the car might experience a moderate or more severe bout of motion sickness, meaning an even greater likelihood of hosing down the seats after your youngest has finished bringing up last night’s lasagne.

There is, however, some hope for drivers who escape the misery by driving and for passengers. The study said cars could be designed to alleviate the issue by having larger windows and ensuring everyone faces forward. Or you could use the age-old trick of looking at something in the distance if all that fails.

Driverless technologies like lane departure assist, emergency braking and adaptive cruise control already exist, but experts say a car that manages full autonomy is as long as a decade away, which seems fair when you consider Google’s self-driving pod struggles with roundabouts.

The positive implications of a car that drives itself are many. Some say it will make us more productive, while others believe road accidents and deaths could be prevented with a computer at the wheel.

There are, however, some concerns. The FBI concluded that driverless cars could be used as a ‘lethal weapon’ such as a mobile bomb. Now that’s a scary thought.

Self-driving cars: Everything you need to know.

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