By on April 24, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Platinum

Few things are more annoying than trying to extract vomit from cloth upholstery while pulled over at a gas station. Depending on the meal that preceded the involuntary stomach evacuation, it could be a tough slog.

Ford Motor Company, always one for innovation, is actively seeking out ways to reduce instances of lost lunches and tossed cookies. No, it hasn’t installed a “turkey dinner” mode on its Fusion Sport, but it has put its German research and development team on the case.

Automakers, in their never-ending quest for greater passenger comfort and handling prowess, have apparently neglected to lend appropriate thought towards the car sickness that plagues a good number of road trip passengers. As children, we were warned against reading while sitting in the back of dad’s Cutlass (I never saw it happen), but whose kids are reading in 2017? I’d hazard a guess of “none.”

Today’s children are usually on their tablet, phone, or watching a Pixar flick on a seatback-mounted screen — even while going to the grocery store.

With the help of motion sickness experts, Ford has conducted tests showing that “passengers who stared at screens for the duration of a short journey fell ill after an average of just 10 minutes.” All of the test subjects were adults, the automaker claims. (General Motors performed similar research in 2014 for the previous-generation Buick Enclave.)

As there’s only so much that can be done to offset the upsetting vehicle motions that come from potholes, twisty roads and expansion joints, Ford has turned its attention to the screen itself. Situational awareness — something that’s no stranger to those who were forced to use their imaginations on pre-tablet road trips — plays a big role. Upchucking occurs when the body and brain interpret different signals. Without warning, the interior of your Explorer can instantly resemble a Carnival cruise liner hit by a norovirus outbreak.

“In the initial testing it was found that when screens were mounted higher, and the road ahead could be seen on either side, volunteers were less likely to feel sick,” the automaker said in a statement. “Further experiments will explore alternative ways that journeys could be displayed in the cabin so that unseeing passengers can be warned of events such as twisty roads or hump backed bridges.”

Think of it as a DEW Line, only for nausea instead of Soviet bombers.

There’s no mention of Gravol or ginger ale dispensers appearing in the foreseeable future, but the findings from Ford’s research could influence vehicle design and content in the coming years. Additionally, the automaker listed ways drivers can lessen the chances of car sickness right now. Part of that includes not driving like the bus driver training instructor of Bob Newhart fame.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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21 Comments on “Ford is Trying to Stop Your Kids from Puking...”

  • avatar

    It would help if the windows were bigger and the belt line lower on newer cars. Having gunslit windows isn’t condusive to seeing the horizon.

    Only time I’ve ever been carsick was in the back seat of a 1979 Camaro when I was small and going to to the Mt Palomar observatory in California. I couldn’t see out the windows and it got messy.

    Dad had a choice at the rental counter of a Camaro or Chevette. I can see why he picked the Camaro, but it wasn’t great in the back.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      I think CUVs are the worst for motion sickness, actually, but not because of the sightlines. Tall + Short = a lot of backseat jiggle in my experience. Also brutal for this: body on frame trucks.

      But yes. Some daylight would help. Oddly I find pano roofs to be useful in this regard.

    • 0 avatar

      “It would help if the windows were bigger and the belt line lower on newer cars. Having gunslit windows isn’t condusive to seeing the horizon.”

      Thumbs up! Not only would it help reduce car sickness but it would improve sight lines and make driving easier and safer.

      Either that, or just make the body entirely of metal and use cameras and flat-panel displays for ALL outside viewing. That would actually offer a much more open-air feeling, especially when combined with an AC system that moves air front to back along the ceiling of the car as though it were outside air instead of hitting us with so many dead-air pockets through those relatively small vent holes.

  • avatar

    Can’t wait for EcoBoostFlex/EBFlex turns this into a Ford-only problem which can be only solved by wiping the planet of anything with a blue oval. Or that they should spend their time finding out why every single Ford blows up at 36,001 miles.

    I do think there is truth in the higher mounted screens leading to less issues.
    I know if I’m riding and I’m on my device, I have to stop after a few minutes because I do get disoriented/uncomfortable a bit. I don’t know if you’d call it sick, but maybe I don’t let it get that far. The bit about the brain receiving mixed signals makes sense.

    • 0 avatar

      Every single Ford blows up at 36,001 miles? Is this just the newer stuff? The one Ford I’ve owned was my ’95 F-150 (5.0 with 4R70W), and it went from 0 miles to 214k (when I traded it in) with the only real problems being pinion bearings in the rear end, and an a/c compressor.

  • avatar

    Been there, done that. If you’re lucky, the kid is still in a car seat, and the mess is (mostly) contained to the car seat upholstery, so you can remove it and run it through the washer.

    We have three girls (all teens now), and I think we only had this happen two or three times, which was enough.

  • avatar

    Bring back vinyl upholstery and full width rubber floor mats!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Thank you Ford, but we’ve crafted our own solution to this issue and it did not require a research budget:

    “Hey kids, you get no screens in the car and can learn to look out the damn window. You’ll thank me when you are an adult with a functioning attention span who doesn’t act like a meth addict going through withdrawal when you don’t have a screen in view”

    Parents tempted to sit in the backseat with their rear-facing 22-month olds to read to them from non-digital media on a long drive should also be aware that the same motion-sickness principle is in play. And dairy immediately preceding this should most certainly be avoided.

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

    I’m grasping for an appropriate term to describe this insanity but will just settle for OMFG.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps VWAG had a similar idea with a famous advertising slogan:


      Seriously, though, it’s the same thing on a boat: make sure you can see the horizon!

      Well, unless the boat is being piloted by a weird couple who just served you rotten chicken salad! Their names were Sam and Ella!

      I’m here through Thursday; don’t forget to tip your waitress!

    • 0 avatar

      Thing is, I have a three year old that will fall asleep in the car at the drop of a hat. A screen is the only thing that will keep him awake.

      I used to scoff at parents who put on Pixar for a run to Wegman’s, but it’s easier than trying to wake him from a 10 minute nap…

  • avatar

    Are we there yet?

  • avatar

    The four incidences of childhood carsickness I can remember all revolved around some combination of smell, heat, and weird food. The smell was usually new car smell (like in the rental Envoy in Denver in 2002), but could also be strong perfumes or weird air fresheners (like in Grandma’s ’95 LeSabre).

    Line of sight to the road was also a factor, but I’ve found no evidence that the terrible visibility out of newer vehicles has aggravated this. The side-facing jump seats on the venerable ’77 SuperCab certainly didn’t contribute. But that might just as easily be because in newer cars, I almost always sit up front anyway. In fact, I suspect the airy greenhouse in the LeSabre may have contributed to the temperature increase.

    My sensitivity towards motion sickness seems to have increased. On the aforementioned 2002 family vacation, I played Pokemon Silver from Denver to Breckenridge to Vail and back with no ill [NPI] effects after that first night, including through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Now I can hardly read a map without feeling woozy, unless I’m sitting up front.

  • avatar

    THis is actually very interesting to me. my kids get woosey pretty easily, worse in the truck. given the same G-forces, how much does lean angle play into it? how much does pitch (speed up, slow down). are stiffer suspensions better / worse? more spring, less roll bar or reverse.

    or are we just damned to going slow on the curvy stuff…

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Are they going to scotch-guard the seats?

  • avatar

    I think a lot of car sickness can be mitigated with throttle calibration. When I was a kid I got carsick a lot (I still can’t ride coasters or thrill rides). Almost invariably when I was a rear seat passenger in my grandfather’s car I would get sick. He learned to drive in downtown DC after WWII when he was nearly 30. His accelerator was effectively digital as he was accustomed to accelerating between city block intersections in heavy underpowered cars.

    By the time I came around the first car of his I can remember was a 1980 Grand Prix that was sufficiently heavy and underpowered it wasn’t too bad, but the rear visibility was nonexistent to my 4-5 year old self. At least the white vinyl cleaned easily; can’t say the same for the blue cut-pile carpeting.

    When he bought a 1984 Honda Accord and drove the Poncho to the junkyard it got really bad. Each successive Accord had better power to weight ratios. He aged. The combination got really bad for me and I know I vomited in his 84, 88, 91, and I think his 94 Accords. His 97 was the first with leather and I believe the first I didn’t vomit in (I was 18 and off to college when they bought it).

    Interior smell may have played a factor too as Hondas of that era seemed to have a particular interior offgas smell to them, or at least his did. Even more recently I replaced the brake pads on our 2006 Odyssey and the smell during the bedding procedure combined with the high braking deceleration made me sick while driving, but I was able to stop it short of losing my lunch.

  • avatar

    My dad had a surefire cure for car sickness: Put the kids in the back seat of the ’71 Olds with some comic books and a two-pound box of juicy ripe cherries, and hit the road. It was all over within minutes.

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