Getting the technology part of autonomous cars right is one thing — encasing sensors and radar systems in unobtrusive exterior plastic trim, getting those sensors to tell the difference between a telephone pole and a pedestrian, then communicating all that information to a car's operating system so it will drive safely through traffic.
But the car is only part of the equation. A different question may be on how you get a human comfortably through that automated morning commute without bringing on nausea.
“Your eyes are focused on your iPad and they are telling your brain you're stationary, but your body senses the motion of the car, the braking, the lateral forces, that tell your brain you're moving,” says Matt Benson, who heads up Faurecia SA's Autonomous Experience Initiative team in an interview with our sister publication Auomotive News.
Faurecia is teaming up with Stanford University's Center for Design Research to look beyond the technology to the person in the car.
The global interior supplier isn't just dreaming of a Jetson's level ride in a vacuum. Autonomous driving is getting a lot of attention these days. Ford Motor Co. just announced it is becoming the first automaker to test out an automated car in the 32-acre Mcity simulated driving environment that is part of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Faurecia said it wanted to look at the human element.
“As the automotive industry continues its march toward autonomous vehicles, most of the efforts have been focused on creating the technology that will enable auto-pilot functionality,” said Rob Huber, vice president of innovation for Faurecia in a news release. “While this is an essential foundation, Faurecia is prioritizing a parallel development track focused on how we enhance the mobility experience by improving life-on-board, making comfort, customization and connectivity a priority.”
Which makes sense. Auto suppliers already have to test how their materials will stand up to sunscreen and hand lotion and cleaning products designed to bring a “new car shine” to TPO skin (never mind that auto companies have been stressing the need for low-gloss materials for the past few years).
Let's hope they don't have to also worry about how to clean out some of the more … unfortunate … side effects of motion sickness at the same time.