Ansible Motion aims to make people sick in its driving simulator

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A UK company is deliberately making people sick in a driving simulator to help prevent motion sickness in the next generation of autonomous vehicles.

With more people set to be reading or using screens in their autonomous cars, auto engineers are turning to simulation technology to help prevent sickness in the car. When self-driving cars become the norm, vehicle occupants will have more time to read, work, watch movies and play games, but it could have one downside – motion sickness, which is already a problem for many passengers today. Researchers are already predicting that from 6-12% of Americans can expect to get sick travelling in an autonomous vehicle, with similar percentages expected elsewhere. However, auto makers are already working on designing vehicles that will mitigate motion sickness, and UK company Ansible Motion is providing the driving simulator technology that allows them to do so.

Ansible’s simulator is different to the type that powers driving games or trains pilots, as it is a ‘dynamics-class’ simulator that features ‘driver-in-the-loop’ technology. It is not used just for measuring human reactions, like other types of flight or driving simulators, it can also be used to virtually prototype vehicles and different on-car components. Ansible’s driving simulator enables designers to test different components and conditions entirely virtually, changing things such as the shape of the windows, vibrations from different road surfaces, sound levels, and suspension settings. By swapping these components around virtually, designers can see what combination gives the smoothest ride. This means that when the first physical prototypes are created, they are already designed to mitigate motion sickness.

Motion sickness (kinetosis) is caused when the images that people see fall out of sync with the movement they are feeling. Reading a book or watching a video while being a passenger in a car can make people feel queasy or nauseous, as there is a disconnect between what they are looking at and the feeling of the road bumping beneath the seat and objects moving past in their peripheral vision. Ansible’s driving simulator enables designers to test different components and interior or exterior conditions, to see the effects on motion sickness. Engineers can induce feelings of sickness by adjusting the simulator’s settings and see the effect on the driver while they are reading or doing other tasks.

“Our own simulation methodology, by default, inserts a layer of controllable sensory content – for motion, vision, haptic feedback, and so on,” explained Phil Morse, technical liaison at Ansible. “Normally, there are no modifications made to this ‘layer’ of the simulation, but one way of studying motion sickness is figuring out how to induce it deliberately, by tweaking the simulator’s settings. This 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.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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