Technology

«Motion Sickness is an Individual Phenomenon»

Min Reading Time
Tags: AutonomousDriving, SeeThinkAct

A lot of people get sick during car rides. Supplier ZF and scientists from Saarland University are researching why this is the case and how motion sickness can be prevented. A third party article by Frank Mertens.
Frank Mertens, November 19, 2019
author_image
Frank Mertens reports since 2005 on the car industry. This article was first published on the company website, www.autogazette.de.
As the degree of automation of vehicles increases, motion sickness will increase in the future, because passengers will be facing against the direction of travel, for example, and will increasingly be doing things in the car other than looking out the window. Autogazette spoke with Florian Dauth and Professor Daniel J. Strauss about how motion sickness comes about and how it can be prevented. At ZF, Dauth works in Advanced Engineering and is responsible for investigating vehicle movements in regard to their effect on people. Neurotechnology specialist Strauss is Director of the Systems Neuroscience & Neurotechnology Unit (SNNU) at the Saarland University and at the htw saar University of Applied Sciences.

Autogazette: Why do passengers in cars often begin to feel ill?

Autogazette: Why do passengers in cars often begin to feel ill?

Daniel J. Strauss: People always suffer when they can’t see out of the window. A driver of a vehicle does not get motion sick, but a passenger in the back seat who is doing work or reading often begins to feel ill. Two thirds of people become motion sick, with a third of them suffering severe symptoms. Women are usually a bit more sensitive than men. Children roughly between the ages of 6 and 12 are also more sensitive on average.
Florian Dauth, Project Manager at ZF (left), and Professor Daniel J. Strauss.

Autogazette: How can that be explained?

Autogazette: How can that be explained?

Strauss: The human brain constantly makes predictions: What is coming next, and how does what I see fit in with the motion I feel? If I can’t anticipate the movements that are coming my way, a discrepancy arises. Then the brain can’t do anything with the prediction of the movements and the actual motion I experience. We refer to this as a sensory conflict, and it ultimately leads to motion sickness.

Autogazette: Mr. Dauth, why is ZF interested in motion sickness?

Autogazette: Mr. Dauth, why is ZF interested in motion sickness?

Florian Dauth: ZF is working intensively on automated driving; and the comfort of the occupants is a crucial factor here. Dizziness, headaches, and nausea are frequent and highly unpleasant side effects for two thirds of all passengers on long car journeys. We want to solve this problem.

Autogazette: What can be done in the vehicle to combat motion sickness?

Autogazette: What can be done in the vehicle to combat motion sickness?

Strauss: Imagine a family going on vacation. The driver glances into the rearview mirror and sees that the children are not feeling well. They then change their driving style, driving slower and more cautiously, for example. A driving “robot” doesn’t yet do that. It plans its overtaking maneuvers and everything else it does based on other factors.
ZF’s innovation vehicle.

Dauth: At the moment, development is focused on making automated driving functions safe, that is, safe transport from A to B. The ability of an automated vehicle to respond to the sensitivities of passengers, as Mr. Strauss just mentioned, naturally goes beyond this. Therefore, in a pre-development stage, we are also looking at the interior and the passengers’ state of health in order to react to it. In the future, society will see safe transport from A to B as something to be taken for granted. For mobility providers, ride comfort could then be the most important decision criterion, with a ride free of motion sickness thus being a crucial competitive advantage for mobility providers.

Autogazette: How will your research project work?

Autogazette: How will your research project work?

Dauth: It will take place in three stages. We quickly realized that motion sickness is a phenomenon that differs a great deal depending on the individual. This led to the concept that, in the first stage, recognition of the condition of the passenger is necessary (perception), with evaluation of the data following in the second stage (think), and, with the right interfaces to the right actuators, the correct countermeasures or preventive measures are initiated in the vehicle in the third stage (act).

Autogazette: What measures result from the three-stage development concept?

Autogazette: What measures result from the three-stage development concept?

Dauth: We concentrate on avoidance and on countermeasures. In relation to a passenger, when the mismatch has been detected and the degree of motion sickness has been adjusted, the main thing is to suppress it by changing the way the vehicle is moving. We don’t want to allow these phenomena to exhibit their extreme effects at all. We have rolled out an initial concept for this, referring to it as artificial emotional intelligence.
In addition to other sensors, cameras record the physical reactions of the test person to the driving situation.

Autogazette: What is it about?

Autogazette: What is it about?

Dauth: We continuously check the relevant vital signs of the passenger. During all driving maneuvers, the body’s response is measured in small increments of time. This resulted in an algorithm that learns over several hundred kilometers what the passenger’s reactions are. Later, the stored data allows the driving strategy of an automated vehicle to plan maneuvers in a defined range of motion in which few examples of these vital signs were detected.

Autogazette: What would that look like?

Autogazette: What would that look like?

Dauth: During the trip, an algorithm learns to understand how the passenger responds to certain driving maneuvers based on the relevant vital signs. During over ten thousand kilometers of driving, we collected more than fifty thousand gigabytes of physiological data relating to the central and autonomic nervous system.

Autogazette: You are planning a variety of measures to combat motion sickness. What do they look like in detail?

Autogazette: You are planning a variety of measures to combat motion sickness. What do they look like in detail?

Dauth: On the one hand, we deal with avoidance of motion sickness – through a preventive driving style, for example. We are currently developing the countermeasures. One of them could be giving back to the passenger their ability to anticipate movements even though they are not looking out the window.
During the journey, the test person must concentrate on various tasks.

Autogazette: How does that work?

Autogazette: How does that work?

Dauth: Apart from looking at the road, we also address other human sensory stimuli for transporting this information. In this context, we are developing acoustic signals. The sounds generated in the vehicle thus contain information that tells passengers what the upcoming motion of the vehicle will be like. Before cornering, these sounds provide the information that a left or right hand bend in the road is imminent. We play these sounds for the test persons over headphones. In parallel with this, the extent to which haptic feedback or lighting design can be used in the interior is also currently being investigated.
Anti Motion Sickness