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Study: Autonomous cars may lead to more cases of motion sickness

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A study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute reveals that motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles, simply because everyone in the car including the “driver” might focus on another activity than watching the road.

A pair of researchers asked more than 3,200 adults in the U.S. and five other countries (India, China, Japan, Great Britain, and Australia) what kinds of activities they would do instead of driving in a fully autonomous vehicle. 

The results? Approximately 26-33% of Americans, Brits, and Australians say they would do things that increase the likelihood and severity of motion sickness, such as reading, texting, watching movies or television, playing games, or working. More than half of Indians and 40% of Chinese would do the same. 

Consequently, about 6-12% of adults riding in fully self-driving vehicles are expected to experience moderate or severe motion sickness at some time. On the bright side, more than 60% would watch the road, talk on the phone, or sleep — activities that would not necessarily lead to motion sickness.