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#MobilityLifeBalance

Using Technology to Combat Travel Stress

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Tags: AutonomousDriving, #MobilityLifeBalance

Many factors in a car can cause stress, ranging from poor road surfaces with potholes to travel sickness. Technical solutions inside the vehicle can provide a remedy.
Friederike Pater, July 01, 2019
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Friederike Pater studied journalism and writes – not only about the automotive – tech trends of tomorrow. On her travels she collects impressions from all over the world and gets inspired to new stories.
Parents fear hearing these words from the back seat: “Mum, I feel sick,” complains the daughter. On the drive to their vacation destination, she is holding a tablet in her hands to watch her favorite movie. Especially on long journeys by car, it is not uncommon for passengers to suffer from nausea or dizziness. “Put the tablet away and try to sleep a little,” advises the mother from the front passenger seat, and returns to her study of a magazine. A pothole in the road surface shakes the car and coffee slops over the rim of the cup. With every passing minute, the stress levels for the travelers rise higher.

Why traveling stresses the body

Why traveling stresses the body

The phenomenon affecting this young girl, as well as one third of people worldwide, is kinetosis, more commonly known as motion sickness. It occurs because the body is exposed to unfamiliar or uncontrolled movements, for example when reading in a car or watching a movie on an airplane. Suddenly, the sense organs are supplying contradictory information about the spatial location and movement of the body or, to put it differently, the eye perceives something else than the body’s sense of balance.
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Many passengers get regularly sick in the vehicle.

40 percent
of randomly surveyed people stated that they had suffered from the symptoms of motion sickness at some time or other while in a car.

Self-driving cars can exacerbate motion sickness

Self-driving cars can exacerbate motion sickness

Researchers at the TU in Berlin and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin are now convinced that self-driving vehicles can further exacerbate this effect. They are currently examining the causal relationship between motion sickness and automated driving. With their research, the team around Professor Steffen Müller and Dr. Uwe Schönfeld also wish to raise the acceptance level for this new technology. Müller is Head of the Motor Vehicles domain at TU Berlin, while Schönfeld heads up the Charité part of the project. “Occupants without a good view of the road and traffic situation are particularly badly affected, because this intensifies the conflict of sensory input that is responsible for kinetosis,” states Schönfeld and goes on: “Many people who suffer from motion sickness prefer to drive themselves, because the symptoms hardly ever occur in that case.” For this reason, those affected by kinetosis are going to have an especially critical attitude in relation to self-driving cars.

Mobility as a general stress factor

Mobility as a general stress factor

Many people get stressed about the topic of mobility, whether traveling by bus, rail, car, or bicycle. A study conducted by McGill University in Montreal, Canada, involving almost 3,800 people, shows that different modes of transportation cause different levels of stress. This can give rise to health issues, and to social problems such as aggressiveness. In this study, the worst offenders were found to be car drivers. On public transport, such as bus and rail, the main stress factors were found to be imponderables such as waiting times or cancellations.
Building sites, diversion and blind traffic situations also contribute to stress.

Less comfort and more stress caused by potholed roads

Less comfort and more stress caused by potholed roads

All around the world there are roads in poor condition. For example, the non-profit organization TRIP publishes a status report on the North American road network on a regular basis. The latest set of annual results, from 2018, showed that one third of the most important urban roads in the country are in such poor condition that they cause discomfort on journeys and an increased level of wear to motor vehicles. In San Francisco, the proportion of road surfaces in this lamentable state actually exceeds 70 percent. In Germany, 16 percent of interstates and 35 percent of main roads are in poor or very poor condition. Potholes, bumps, and loud road noise can exacerbate symptoms of stress, up to kinetosis.

Using intelligent technology against travel stress

Using intelligent technology against travel stress

The study “Evolution of Mobility” conducted on behalf of the German automobile club, the ADAC, formulates the demand placed on self-driving vehicles, which is that they are to become Third Places, or feel-good spaces between the place of work and the home. The users should be able to enjoy spending time in the self-driving vehicles, and at the same time they should be able to make good use of that time. As well as the effective use of time while traveling and the reduction in stress levels, people above all hope for self-driving cars to be more comfortable (56 percent).
This is why vehicle manufacturers are looking for ways to satisfy this wish for greater driving comfort through technical measures. Approaches include active suspension, innovative interior concepts, or the improved networking of functions. For example, active damping systems can improve dynamics and safety. These systems can detect potholes or other irregularities in the road surface at an early stage and counteract them. A redesign of the vehicle interior can help to relieve stress, and to help prevent the symptoms of motion sickness.

What to do in a self-driving car?

What to do in a self-driving car?

When you no longer need to drive a car yourself to get somewhere, that creates free time for other activities. Here are the answers to what redundant drivers would do with this additional time:
  • Looking out of the window and watching the view go by (73%)
  • Relaxing (59%)
  • Reading (47%)
  • Surfing the Internet (39%)
  • Working (28%)
  • Sleeping (28%)
  • Playing (23%)

#MobilityLifeBalance

With an initiative, ZF focuses squarely on people with regard to mobility offers, showing where and how things can be improved.

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