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Human frailty could put the brakes on the hi-tech world of driverless cars, with travel sickness expected to be a major problem in automated vehicles.

The University of Michigan conducted a study that predicts a 28% rise in the number of people suffering from travel sickness when a computer does the driving.

Autonomous vehicles could therefore rekindle childhood memories of long car journeys punctuated by queasiness and emergency roadside stops. Being unable to anticipate or control the direction of movement also causes the symptoms. The chance of this happening is reduced when a driver has control of their vehicle, but the “hands off, feet off” nature of automated cars raises the chance of travel sickness.

The researchers found that while almost a quarter of Britons said they would not travel in a car driven by a computer, of those who would, 57% said they would spend the time travelling watching the road even though they weren’t in control. Is this due to an uncertainty in the computer’s ability?

Almost 10% said they would read, while almost the same amount would use the time to sleep, the remainder would use the time for activities including watching TV, playing games or working.

However, they say that car designers of the future could reduce the chances of motion sickness through design features such as larger windows so passengers have better all-round views and seats that face forwards or recline, as people lying down are less likely to be affected.

Overcoming the challenges that driverless cars present to the human body could be a key task for the car industry if automated vehicles are to deliver the hoped-for benefits to society.

For advice on cars that still need to be driven, call GWA on 01243 510650.

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