Motion Sickness Alleviation via Anticipatory Control of Active Seats in Autonomous Vehicles

Motion Sickness Alleviation via Anticipatory Control of Active Seats in Autonomous Vehicles

Shorya Awtar Headshot - link directs to their research page
Shorya Awtar
University of Michigan Logo - link directs to U-M research page

Principal Investigator(s):

Shorya Awtar, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering – University of Michigan
Technical Founder – FlexDex Surgical

Project Abstract:
The goal of this integrative research project is to develop and demonstrate a passenger motion sickness mitigation solution that employs preemptive or anticipatory control of Active Seats in autonomous vehicles. The resulting proof of concept will enable implementation and deployment of the proposed technology. Motion sickness when traveling in a vehicle is a common condition that afflicts one in three adults in the US. Moreover, passengers who are not driving the vehicle experience such motion sickness more acutely compared to the driver of the vehicle. This is due to the driver’s ability to make anticipatory corrections when initiating a driving action that involves acceleration (e.g. speeding up, breaking, or taking turns). These anticipatory corrections by the driver (such as tightening their abdominal core muscles when braking or leaning their body/head into the direction of the turn when turning) help prepare the driver for the accelerations associated with the driving actions slightly ahead of time, whereas the passenger ends up passively reacting to these driving actions. With the impending transformation in ground transportation due to autonomous vehicles, where every occupant is a passive passenger, the deleterious effects of motion sickness on the passenger comfort and productivity during their commute is expected to be significant. The proposed solution strategy leverages the existing science on the causes of motion sickness (including the sensory conflict, neural mismatch, and postural instability theories), and the well-known benefits of anticipatory corrective action in mitigating the same. In this project, we will develop a test vehicle equipped with Active Seats capable of roll, pitch, and yaw motions that can be controlled preemptively based on apriori knowledge of the driving conditions in a closed-track testing facility (M-City). These driving conditions include vehicle path/route (including turns and stop and go events), vehicle speed and acceleration profiles, and vehicle parameters and dynamics. Based on this apriori knowledge of driving conditions, we will develop algorithms that preemptively control the Active Seat, for example starting to tilt the seat towards the direction of a turn slightly before the turn happens. Our hypothesis is that such preemptive correction will provide anticipation and reduce body movement, thereby lowering the incidence of passenger motion sickness. Thus, the passenger of an autonomous vehicle equipped with the proposed technology will no longer be entirely passive and instead be more like the driver of a traditional vehicle.

Institution(s): University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Award Year: 2021

Research Thrust(s): Human Factors

Project Form(s):
Project Information Form