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Bye Bye Travel Sickness

Group Research: The first tests to combat car sickness yield positive results.

It’s not just out at high sea that the niggling feeling of travel sickness can strike – it can even affect people simply sitting in the car. Adrian Brietzke and Rebecca Pham Xuan from the Group Research team in Wolfsburg are looking into the potential causes. Tests are currently underway at the testing facility in Ehra-Lessien. The first ideas designed to combat travel sickness are in motion. Almost a third of car passengers frequently feel sick while travelling – particularly when reading or watching a movie.

“To put it simply, the forces acting on us in the car confuse our sense of perception,” explains Brietzke. Drivers, on the other hand, are rarely affected. The person sitting behind the wheel is aware of how they are going to control the vehicle and can therefore adapt to the driving behavior. “That’s the driver’s privilege,” adds Brietzke. But with automated driving set to become a reality in the future, travel sickness could affect considerably more passengers.

Stefanie Thiemann sits in the passenger seat of an Audi A8. Rebecca Pham Xuan hooks her up to various sensors designed to measure her pulse, skin temperature, and even changes in skin tone. The 20-minute test is ready to go: The A8 uses ACC to follow a semi-autonomous Passat model that travels in a stop-start motion.

Group researcher Rebecca Pham Xuan tries out a pair of glasses that analyze eye movements while she is watching a movie on the tablet in front of her. Adrian Brietzke is at the wheel.

The subjects are tested while watching an insignificant movie in the car. The visuals feature swimming fish rather than a major blockbuster, so as not to trigger any emotions such as tension or happiness. The candidates rate their state of health on a tablet. “I didn’t think I was that sensitive, but I felt queasy after just a few minutes,” reported Thiemann.

In a second phase, the two researchers Brietzke and Pham Xuan worked together with their Audi colleague Franziska Gohlke to trial measures designed to prevent travel sickness from the outset. This involved making adjustments such as changes to the chassis. “This is intended to reduce the symptoms experienced as a passenger and in self-driving cars,” explains Gohlke.

Other ideas to combat travel sickness that have already been tested include a mobile seat designed to mitigate unpleasant side effects, and a light bar on the inside of the door intended to counteract dizziness when braking or accelerating. The green or red lighting strips are supposed to make it easier for passengers to work out the driving behavior.

Studies have shown that these inventions have already had some initial success. But the team still has some way to go, and further studies are in the pipeline. Their plans include examining not only the longitudinal forces when braking and accelerating, but also the transverse forces when taking corners. The work of these experts is making a real contribution to ensuring that riding in the car is an enjoyable experience for everyone.

wanted for study

The researchers are looking for more test subjects for their studies. Candidates should have suffered with travel sickness at some point in the past. Applications should be emailed to the team managing the pool of volunteers at