Weekly Brief: JLR Car Sickness Cure Vital For Driverless

A whole bunch of people are about to get car sick. That’s the dirty secret behind the self-driving car revolution.

We hear a lot about how many accidents self-driving cars will eliminate, how much traffic they’ll mitigate and how much time they’ll free up – time that we can spend reading, texting, working, eating, or relaxing in other ways that don’t involve fixating our eyeballs on the road. Trouble is, doing these sorts of things is exactly what makes people motion sick in moving vehicles, because their inner ears sense movement that doesn’t align with what their eyes observe. Studies suggests that 70% of people get motion sick in cars. Researchers believe it may be even worse in self-driving cars since passengers will have a more difficult time anticipating the direction of the motion.

You can imagine how badly the car industry would like to avoid a future in which passengers are constantly nauseous or doubled over puke bags. No one will want to get into robo-taxis if that’s the reality and it could prove problematic for the trucking industry as well. Last week our Greg Hyde reported on a new partnership between Ericsson and Swedish AV start-up Einride, which is developing an autonomous truck called the T-pod that could render traditional truckers obsolete. The more likely reality, however, is that lots of truckers will remain on the road but with more limited driving responsibilities and more time to do other types of work in their cabs – time that fleet managers will be eager to optimize.

That’s why the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) announcement of a new solution for car sickness is important. The carmaker revealed that’s been working on an algorithm that generates a wellness score for each passenger in a vehicle. It does so by using a mix of cameras and biometric and temperature sensors that are integrated throughout the cabin to keep tabs on passengers and gauge how they’re handling the car environment. If they’re sweating or closing their eyes, or if they’re swaying back and forth or their heart rate is dropping, the system allows the car to automatically respond in a number of different ways. It can adjust cabin temperature, change passenger seat positions and open windows for fresh air. It can also adjust the way it drives by making smaller deviations from the centerline, bumping up the level of vibration, or tightening up the suspension.

To be clear, this is all still in the early days. JLR says that it’s logged 15,000 miles of motion sickness data collection and is getting ready to wrap up its initial research. It could be years before a final product finds its way into cars but the results to date have been positive. JLR claims that when it personalizes a vehicle’s driving and cabin settings based on a passenger’s wellness score, it can reduce the effects of feeling car sick by up to 60%. That’s impressive and represents the type of results that carmakers may need if passengers are going to buy into the robo-taxi revolution.


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