ANN ARBOR, Michigan — A self-driving SUV made a triumphant entry into New York City last week after driving across the country, and such vehicles are edging ever closer to reality. But there appears to be a major downside to giving up the wheel.
Motion sickness is expected to be more of a problem in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles, according to a new report from researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
"In the current debate about self-driving vehicles, one important topic that has not received sufficient attention is motion sickness," the report said.
Researchers estimate that 6-10 percent of American adults riding in fully self-driving vehicles would be expected to "often, usually or always experience some level of motion sickness."
The factors that contribute to queasiness include lack of control over the direction of motion and the inability to anticipate the direction of motion.
These things are "elevated in self-driving cars," the report notes.
"However, the frequency and severity of motion sickness is influenced by the activity that one would be involved in instead of driving," it said.
It turns out that sleeping reduces the frequency and severity of motion sickness, as does being awake with the eyes closed, the researchers say.
Some medications also lessen or eliminate the nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness.
Vehicle design may also play a role in how much motion sickness is associated with a self-driving car.
"To the extent that smaller, opaque or reduced-visibility windows would be employed in self-driving vehicles, the frequency and severity of motion sickness would increase," the report said. "Conversely, if self-driving vehicles would provide a smoother ride than conventional vehicles, the frequency and severity of motion sickness would decrease."
Edmunds says: Self-driving cars aren't expected to hit the market for several more years. But future buyers may want to stock up on Dramamine.