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Simulating motion sickness in autonomous cars

Experts predict increase in car sickness in transition from driving

Published: September 6, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:51 PM

driving simulator

Just about everybody has had an experience with car-sickness, whether personally or with a fellow traveller and a UK company is researching the affliction it its driving simulators.

Autonomous cars allow people at the wheel to do other things

That’s right … people are getting sick in simulators in order to make a new generation of vehicles more sensitive to its occupants’ suffering from motion sickness. The reason the research is so important at this time is that we’re on the cusp of the autonomous vehicle era, when auto-occupants make the switch from drivers to riders, and spend more time looking at printed pages or display screens.

Experts are already predicting an increase in motion sickness sufferers in the transition to autonomous vehicles, speculating that between 6% and 12% of vehicle occupants will be afflicted in the next five to ten years.

Many automakers are turning to Ansible Motion, the Norwich driving simulator developer, and its new breed of simulator called “Driver in the Loop,” which doesn’t just measure user reaction as driver or flight simulators do. Rather, the dynamics based simulator can virtually simulate specific vehicles and different components that would change a vehicle’s ride dynamics.

Of critical importance to autonomous vehicles is the car’s sensors’ interacting with each other in order to avoid collisions, which will be done without the reactionary warnings that come from a driver at the wheel panicking to deal with the emergency. Rather than having that play out in the real world, manufacturers want to mitigate as much of the damage as possible by dealing with it virtually.

Also of importance is that computers can virtually swap out components and see how the switch affects the vehicle reactions, and cut costs because manufacturers don’t have to build a bunch of components and the vehicles around them in order to perform one test. And that really becomes important when you’re dealing with driving dynamics components.

Ansible Motion’s “Driver in the Loop” simulator enables designers to change more than just suspension components, though, and experiment with such things as the shape of windows, vibrations from different road surfaces, and sound levels. These are all factors in motion sickness, which manifests itself when the images we are seeing don’t match up with the movements we are feeling.

“Our own simulation methodology, by default, inserts a layer of controllable sensory content - for motion, vision, haptic feedback, and so on,” explains Ansible Motion’s Technical Liaison, Phil Morse. “This (tweaking the simulator’s settings) can be a useful way to explore human sensitivities while people are engaged in different tasks inside a car. And then the understanding of these sensitivities can wrap back around and inform the real vehicle design,’ he explains.