Keith Kelsen’s Narrative of Scent: “Mood Hacking” Driving with Scent

Mood is an important factor in safe driving

Life is a journey, to make it wonderful, “Mood Hacking” with scent could be the answer to lowering the stress that’s dangerous while driving.  A study by Harvard Health Watch estimated that Americans spend over 1 ½ hours a day commuting. Driving itself is a stressful activity and traffic jams can cause an increasingly irritated and angry mood. Behavior triggers are now believed to be a leading cause of traffic incidents and fatalities. What can be done to change that? “Mood Hacking” (the ability to shift someone’s mood), in this case potentially using Scent. While some can bring down stress levels, others can increase mental alertness. That means, properly diffused, they can help you have a pleasant driving experience and make it safer.

“It’s astounding how much the smell in a car can affect a driver’s mood and actions. Scent is a very powerful sense and could result in a lack of concentration or over-reaction to minor irritations on the road–which can turn into potentially life threatening incidents.”  stated Sue Nicholson, in the RAC’s Motoring Toward 2050, “Before 2050 … motorists can help do this for themselves… cinnamon or mint…in a car could help to keep drivers alert, refreshed and focused.”

In-car technology can detect & change your mood; future cars could know your mood and automate a response

What happens when the car drives itself?  Do moods still play a role? Is Scent an important part of the car of the future?   The answer is “yes” based on research from the British RAC Foundation, into the relationship between Scents and driving:

“Someday, your car may detect your mood and automatically adjusting the scent in your car to help calm or invigorate you”, according to the RAC Foundation’s Motoring Toward 2050 Report. Journeys in the 2050 car will be made significantly easier and safer through the widespread use of telematics.”

Telematics does more than just navigate the car.  They can read the mood of the driver and passengers.  Even when the driver is actively driving the car, telematics will monitor conditions inside and outside of the vehicle. The system may also automatically adjust seat position, temperature, lighting, and Scent, all based on your mood. Mood Hacking offers a possibility, as sensors can be used to read a mood and then offer solutions to change it. How does it work?

The iPhone X technology is a key

The recent iPhone X gives us a clue towards mood recognition via facial expressions. Face ID, as Apple is branding it, uses a camera in conjunction with a 3-D scanner to not just record an image but measure in detail the contours of facial features. This solution, inside an automobile, could then draw on a database of billions facial expressions, to recognize basic emotions on people’s faces. (It’s now being used to tell businesses if you like their advertising.) Based on those expressions, the interior of the car can change.  If a person were angry, a calming Scent could be released and interior lighting could be changed. If the person was getting nauseous, a stomach soothing Scent could be deployed.

Self-driving cars will be in 30 U.S. cities by the end of next year & nausea is on the increase

Up to 22% of adults are likely to experience motion sickness in self-driving cars.  Additionally, a total of 37% are expected to engage in activities that increase the severity and frequency of motion sickness, from using laptops to reading Kindles. Unlike trains, self-driving cars will be subject to more lateral and longitudinal acceleration/deceleration that’s drastically rougher.

In their comprehensive study, MOTION SICKNESS IN SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES, Sivak and Schoettle looked at the 3 main factors that cause motion sickness and determined that they are elevated in self-driving vehicles. It was an extensive survey of 3,255 adults worldwide who named reading, talking/texting, watching movies/TV, working and playing games as the activities they’d engage in self-driving cars.

“All three factors, to varying degrees, are more frequently experienced by vehicle passengers than by drivers, who rarely experience motion sickness,” they wrote in the report.  “It’s become evident that self-driving cars will replace traditional cars in the future, and when this happens, all adults (who are most prone to motion sickness) will be passengers.

Scent is the ready cure, proven effective worldwide as a cure for motion sickness.  Why does Scent work so well?

Scent improves our mood and performance but is not a drug

We all know that Scents affect us depending on our previous experiences with them.  What your favorite music or comedy routine used to do to improve mood can be achieved faster through interior atmosphere shifting, effectively “mood hacking” your emotions with Scent. They affect us emotionally and bring about physiological changes in us.  It is all personal, as people respond differently based on culture. We understand then that the mood of the driver is a critical factor, if they are positive, they are safer and if they are negative, they can be a menace. According to Rachel S. Herz, professor of psychology at the Brown University,

Odors do affect people’s mood, work performance and behavior in a variety of ways but it isn’t because odors work on us like a drug, instead we work on them through our experiences with them…A growing body of literature shows that positive mood is linked to an increase in productivity, performance and the tendency to help others, while negative mood reduces prosocial behavior.”

How can Scent be used in an automobile? 

Sensors can be integrated into the car to monitor the status of the people inside of it.  In the vehicles of the future, the driver becomes more of a passenger and the car becomes an entertainment or a working environment. Even today, changing the mood of the driver and passengers can change the journey instantly. It is measurable by sensors.  The body gives away clues, according to Rachel S. Herz, in her book The Scent of Desire:

“A number of studies have shown that the odors people like make them feel good, whereas odors people dislike make them feel bad. These mood responses have also been reported physiologically. For example, skin conductance, heart-rate and eye-blink rates in response to various liked or disliked scents coincide with the mood the person is experiencing…moods influence how we think (cognition) and how we act (behavior).”

In an autonomous vehicle, the sensors could read the mood of the inhabitants and then select an appropriate scent to deal with the mood situation. It can make the journey so much more pleasant.

The Journey

When one looks at the journey in an autonomous vehicle, rather than driving, there is a shift in thinking.  Imagine you are on the way to the beach…your windshield turns into a display of ocean beach scenes, the lighting is warm, the temperature is a degree warmer, and the scent is of coconut oil, cool ocean, perhaps smell of cotton candy if you’re on the way to the boardwalk. Now, imagine that you may not even be going to the beach…you are just on your commute to work.  The journey changes your reality, at least in that moment!

Choosing the right Scents for your car

Until the car drives itself, you can have a bit of the future now, by adding the right Scent to your drive.  This is not as simple as it would seem, as some Scents are not safe while operating a motor vehicle. For example, Lavender is extremely calming and relieves anxiety, but can make you over-relaxed at the wheel, even sleepy, like Chamomile.  Eucalyptus can make you restless, even overactive. The right fragrance in the car should help the driver focus on the road, anticipate and react quickly while removing anxiety and irritability. Choose wisely!

Related Posts

Leave a comment