Brain training may be required for occupants of driverless vehicles

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Motion sickness will limit much of what driverless vehicle occupants will be capable of doing unless brain training to cope with the unpleasant feeling is offered, an ITS UK forum has been warned.

Researchers at the University of Warwick have found cognitive tasks could reduce the feelings of sickness by over half.

A much-touted perceived benefit of autonomous vehicle technology is that working and a variety of leisure activities could be performed during the time freed up from being behind the wheel.

However, meeting in Warwick, the User Behaviour Forum has heard how reading, emailing, watching films and texting all have been found to induce motion sickness in a significant number of people travelling in a moving vehicle.

A study led by researcher Joe Smyth at WMG, a department at the university, led to all participants experiencing at least some level of unwellness while reading in a self-driving car. Furthermore, the only activities not leading to negative side effects in a person were sleeping or looking out of the window.

The researchers discovered that a series of cognitive tasks, similar to brain training puzzles, was effective in reducing sickness by more than 56% in its first iteration. The possibility that visual, audible and haptic motion cues could also limit the unpleasant feelings is currently being investigated.

“When designing new transport solutions we need to remember to concentrate on the user and not get caught up purely with the technology design,” said Forum chair, Siddartha Khastgir of WMG, University of Warwick.  “This meeting gave us a sobering reminder that human beings might well not react in the way that we would like and it’s up to us to change our focus to take their needs and personalities into account.”

“We have plenty of forums concentrating on technology,” said ITS (UK) Secretary General Jennie Martin.

“But the User Behaviour Forum is vital to bring a human context into all the work we do. Although this meeting largely concentrated on driverless technology, the forum’s remit is for all aspects of user behaviour around transport, so I look forward to many more meetings discussing a range of reactions to ITS innovations.  This group’s work is another way our members can benefit from being part of ITS (UK) by sharing not only the technological work being done, but its real-world uses

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James joined the Traffic Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter and son who keep him busy.

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