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U-M researchers patent system that counters motion sickness in self-driving cars

Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

ANN ARBOR – For all of the conveniences autonomous vehicles may bring to consumers, one factor for some could make using the technology a deal breaker: motion sickness.

The condition occurs as a result of a conflict between visual and vestibular inputs when moving in a vehicle but not watching the road.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have received a patent on a system they developed that counters the effects of motion sickness while riding in driverless vehicles. They say about half of all adults experience motion sickness.

It works by eliminating the conflict between visual and vestibular inputs by providing light stimuli in the passenger's visual periphery to mimic what they might see outside.

Elements of the technology are wearable and also implemented in the vehicle's system.


U-M students test autonomous vehicle technology at Mcity (Photo: University of Micigan Mcity)

"This is more important with the introduction of autonomous vehicles," said Michael Sivak, a research professor at U-M Transportation Research Institute. "In autonomous cars, everyone will be a passenger. So you will have a larger potential pool of sick people. The protection that drivers have received from driving won't be there anymore."

Sivak, along with Brandon Schoettle, is consulting with U-M Tech Transfer to commercialize their technology.
Keith Hughes, assistant director of transportation and battery commercialization at U-M Tech Transfer, said efforts are being made to contact automakers and suppliers to get Sivak and Schoettle's invention on the market.
"As we move toward autonomous vehicles, the interiors could also have an unusual configuration—it could be couches in a vehicle, or you might be sitting backwards or sideways," he said. "Providing a solution to motion sickness will be necessary."

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