Where To Focus

Last F1 season, Sky Sports did a feature with then Force India drive Nico Hulkenberg.  In it, they fitted the driver with eye tracking technology to see where his focus was as he was driving round Silverstone.

The results were really interesting.  They cameras didn’t just show where the driver was looking, but could also measure his reaction times.

First up was that there were lots of movements of the eye between fixed points, called saccades.  The brain generally fills in the gaps.  For example, the Nico checked his mirror when leaving the pitlane, it only took him a tenth of a second! Apparently for “normal” humans, that’s usually half a second.

The point of this post, though, was that when driving, Nico would focus on the apex of the bend.  This is the quickest way round the bend.  If you were thinking of driving on a normal road, it would look like this:

Even more interestingly, Hulkenberg spent a long time looking at that apex.  He watched it all the way round before focussing on the next one.

As the picture above shows, on a normal road this might be the fastest way but it also means that you have to go on the opposite side of the road against on coming traffic.  It might be the fastest way, but it’s certainly not the safest and, well, it’s not the way it should be done.

You’re supposed to go round a bend like this:

So I did an experiment of my own.  It’s not one that I would recommend on a busy road but, a bit like left foot breaking, it’s quite interesting.

Instead of looking at the apex (which I consider the white lines, not the other side of the road!), I looked at the curb on the outside of the bend.  It did what I expected – by following the outside of the bend rather than the inside, I drove round the bend more slowly but it was more accurate in staying entirely on my side of the road.

The downside is that I had absolutely no idea what was ahead of me on the road because I completely limited by peripheral vision.  I keep looking round the bend and back again to keep getting all the information I needed.

To move on to another example, all my snowboard teachers say that, when turning, look where you want to go.  I didn’t get this because to turn you have to point the board down the hill, so I always thought that I wanted to go down so I looked down, rather than at my destination point to the right or left of the mountain.

It begs the question about how you focus your attention and what you’re aiming at.  Do you focus at the thing that enables you to go fast but not do it quite so well? Or do you do it properly but a bit more slowly? I guess you also need to know exactly where you want to go too.

I had to escape
The city was sticky and cruel
Maybe I should have called you first
But I was dying to get to you

I was dreaming while I drove the long straight road ahead, uh-huh, yeah
Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide
This fever for you was just burning me up inside

I drove all night to get to you
Is that all right?
I drove all night, crept in your room
Woke you from your sleep to make love to you
Is that all right?
I drove all night

What in this world
Keeps us from falling apart?
No matter where I go I hear
The beating of our one heart

I think about you when the night is cold and dark, uh-huh, yeah
No one can move me the way that you do
Nothing erases this feeling between me and you, oh

I drove all night to get to you
Is that all right?
I drove all night, crept in your room
Woke you from your sleep to make love to you
Is that all right?
I drove all night

Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide
This fever for you was just burning me up inside

I drove all night to get to you
Is that all right?
I drove all night, crept in your room
Is that all right?
I drove all night

I Drove All Night by Roy Orbison

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