A prime concern for automated vehicles is motion comfort, as an uncomfortable ride may reduce acceptance of the technology amongst the general population. However, it is not clear how transient motions typical for travelling by car affect the experience of comfort. Here, we determine the relation between properties of vehicle motions (i.e., acceleration and jerk) and discomfort empirically, and we evaluate the ability of normative models to account for the data. 23 participants were placed in a moving-base driving simulator and presented sinusoidial and triangular motion pulses with various peak accelerations (Amax0.4 − 2 ms−2) and jerks (Jmax0.5 − 15 ms−3), designed to recreate typical vehicle accelerations. Participants provided discomfort judgments on absolute ‘Verbal Qualifiers’ and relative ‘Magnitude Estimates’ associated with these motions. The data show that discomfort increases with acceleration amplitude, and that the strength of this effect depends on the direction of motion. We furthermore find that higher jerks (shorter duration pulses) are considered more comfortable, and that triangular pulses are more comfortable than sinusoidal pulses. ME responses decrease (i.e., reduced discomfort) with increasing pulse duration. Evaluations of normative models of vibration and shock (ISO 2631), and perceived motion intensity provide mixed results. The vibration model could not account for the data well. Reasonable agreement between predictions and observations were found for the shock model and perceived intensity model, which emphasize the role of acceleration. We present novel statistical models that describe motion comfort as a function of acceleration, jerk, and direction. The present findings are essential to develop motion planning algorithms aimed at maximizing comfort.