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Automakers Address the Problem of Motion Sickness

April 28, 2014
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Motion sickness is a real concern for vehicle owners, particularly those who transport young children. It is not uncommon to hear stories of children who suffer from motion sickness during long trips and end up puking inside the automobile. Fortunately for parents, they need not endure cleaning the mess or pay someone to do the cleaning for them in the near future. This is because automakers themselves are taking action and helping to solve the problem.

General Motors Co. is one of the automakers which hopes to address the problem of motion sickness. Thanks to GM’s ‘Take Your Child to Work Day,’ its Human Factors group was able to find an ideal location in which to put the DVD screen in the Buick Enclave to help avoid the puking scenario that many parents dread.

Through ‘Take Your Child to Work Day,’ GM was able to enlist the help of their employees’ children to determine the best placement of the DVD screen. Determining the right location was crucial not only to guarantee the best viewing experience, but also to make motion sickness less likely.

GM Human Factors engineering group manager Don Shreves explained the connection between the screen placement and motion sickness: “We know through other scientific research that even if our eyes are focused on a fixed point – if we can see the outside passing by in the window – our brain is telling us that we are moving.” Most of the existing rear DVD entertainment systems are placed either on the ceiling or at the back of the seats.

However, Shreves noted that not seeing the view outside can trigger motion sickness. “But if our eyes are at a downward angle and do not see the view outside the vehicle, our bodies become sensitive to motion and increase the chance of sickness,” he said.

So to find just the right spot for viewing in its three-row 2014 Buick Enclave SUV, GM got the help of over 75 kids for the study. The automaker’s researchers placed a sliding track on the roof of the SUV that allows the DVD screen to be moved back and forth. The research team recorded the responses of the kids in order to discover what distance was too close and which was too far away. The data were then passed on to the vehicle engineering team, which took these into consideration when creating the final design.

Like GM, Chrysler Group LLC considered the problem of motion sickness and made some changes as well. For the 2015 Dodge Durango, the rear seat entertainment system is no longer in the center ceiling—it is now on the backs of the front seats.

While GM and Chrysler are preoccupied with screen placement, Ford Motor Co. did something else. The Blue Oval’s researchers kept in mind the inevitability of accidents and tested the interiors to ensure that these could handle not only vomit but spills of food and beverages.

Researchers poured milkshakes on seats to see if the seat belts buckle despite the spillage. Also, they ensured that the upholstery can be easily and thoroughly cleaned after an accident.

Photo credit: © General Motors CC BY-NC

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