Why Driverless Cars Could Make Some People Sick

Google self driving car

Driverless cars can make you sickAt the moment it looks a dead cert that driverless cars will be taking over our roads within the next 20 to 30 years, with governments and individual companies testing the new technology. Some people aren’t too thrilled with the idea of self-driving technology due to fears over safety and surveillance. However, there is another reason why we might not all embrace the driverless cars of the future- sickness.

Surveys have asked people what they would do while sitting in a driverless car and top of the list is staring out of the window. This could be due to nerves or the fact that they are usually concentrating on the road when driving themselves and so rarely get time to take a look a look around. The surveys have also indicated that they would do things such as read, play games, do work, use their smartphones and watch movies. It’s because of these activities that content companies have been predicted to benefit the most from the widespread use of self-driving cars.

It’s an unfortunate fact that it’s exactly the type of activities that people want to do which are the ones that can increase motion sickness and make it much worse. If you already suffer from travel sickness frequently then you’ll know that reading or looking down at your smartphone is likely to bring on symptoms or make them worse. Motion sickness doesn’t usually afflict the driver of a car, it is more commonly felt by passengers and can depends on what the passenger is doing.

A study conducted by Michael Sivak, a professor from the University of Michigan, can give more insight into travel sickness in conjunction with driverless cars. Sivak has tried to estimate the proportion of people that would contract motion sickness if they carried out the activities that they expect to be doing. He estimates that the percentage of people who will experience sickness in driverless cars often, usually or always is between 6% and 10%. In other countries like India where people have said that they are more likely to be watching video, reading or browsing the internet than those in the US, people would be more likely to experience sickness. 8% to 14% of people in India would often feel unwell in cars that use driverless technology according to Sivak’s study.

Morgan Stanley analysts have predicted that self driving cars will be on the road in great numbers within 20 years, while Goldman Sachs predicts that cars which don’t have steering wheels and will brake automatically will be common by 2025.

Driverless cars are not a development that is welcomed by everybody and indeed many are against the idea. Those who have enjoyed driving for years don’t welcome the thought that they may be forced into using a technology that takes a pleasurable activity or hobby away from them. Fears over safety are also widespread, especially after Google announced that the 20 or so self-driving cars that it has been testing have been involved in 11 accidents. Google claims that the accidents were the fault of other drivers crashing into the cars while they were stopped at traffic lights and that some of the accidents came about while a human safety driver was controlling the cars. Despite Google trying to explain away the accidents, fears over how safe the technology will be when it hits the roads are common. This is compounded by thought that hackers may be able to gain access to a car’s computer system, allowing them to infect it with malware, or even control it completely.

The new predictions over sickness come at a time when self-driving car technology should be building anticipation and momentum for its launch in the future, rather than giving people more reason to dislike or fear the idea. Around 80% of people will experience travel sickness at some point in their lives, and it seems that for some people the first time they have the experience will be in a driverless car while performing a fun activity like playing a game or watching a movie. Expect TV adverts for travel sickness medication based around self-driving cars in the not too distant future.

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