Ford looks at ways to reduce car sickness in future cars

Ford’s research into motion sickness is finding new ways to improve passenger comfort while recognising that the way a car is driven can make all the difference

girl sick in car

If there’s one thing worse than the constant calls of ‘are we there yet’ from the back seats on a road trip it’s the words ‘I feel sick’.

Car sickness is nothing new, with stop-start traffic and winding roads afflicting at least 60 percent of us at some point, however it’s even more likely when children and teenagers choose to sit in the back seat with their heads down playing games or watching movies.

New research carried out by Ford, with the help of motion sickness experts, has found passengers who stared at screens for the duration of a short journey fell ill after an average of just 10 minutes.  

The research is looking at ways to alleviate motion sickness in cars such as the location of screens and visual cues to help passengers, particularly young people who are most susceptible.

Initial testing found that when screens were mounted higher, and the road ahead could be seen on either side, volunteers were less likely to feel sick.

Further experiments will explore alternative ways that journeys could be displayed in the cabin so that passengers can be warned of stomach churning events, such as twisty roads or hump backed bridges. 

“Car sickness can turn an eagerly awaited family trip into a nightmare, with mum and dad nervously looking over their shoulders and fearing the worse,” said Eike Schmidt, research engineer at the Ford Research and Innovation Center, in Aachen, Germany.

“Comfort is a huge focus for the way we design the cars of the future – and we want to do everything we can to reduce car sickness.” 

But Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos, of TNO, Perceptual and Cognitive Systems in the Netherlands, who is working with Ford, said the easiest way to prevent passengers getting sick is to drive more smoothly.

“For many drivers who think their child has a problem with car sickness it might simply be that their child has a problem with their driving,” he said.

“Adopting a smoother driving style goes a long way towards reducing feelings of nausea – and it reduces fuel costs too.” 

Here are some ways Prof. Bos suggests car sickness can be eased:

  • Move to the middle in the back seats, or preferably the front, to see the road ahead.
  • Drive smoothly and where possible avoid sudden braking, harsh acceleration, or potholes.
  • Distract sufferers – even a family sing-a-long could help.
  • Drink cola, eat ginger biscuits, but avoid coffee.
  • Use a pillow or head support to keep your head as still as possible.
  • Operate air-con to keep fresh air circulating.


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