Multitasking Morons and Cognitive Tunneling

texting-and-tunnelingWe Just Think We See the Outside World
An Inattentional Blindness phenomenon referred to as “Cognitive Tunneling” very well describes what happens when a driver is focused on a distracting mental or physical task (i.e. texting) and filters out visual and auditory cues from their environment. Focus is directed at the smartphone and external stimuli take on secondary recognition.

Multitasking Morons
If you are an individual who believes you can be safe and effective while simultaneously operating a motor vehicle and texting, you are engaged in an effort to multitask. By doing so, according to leading psychologist Joanne Cantor, Ph.D., you are “Mining Your Inner Moron.” In Dr. Cantor’s May 2010 article for Psychology Today she writes, “When you’re multitasking, you’re dimming your bulb, depowering your brain.

Multitasking Myths
David Strayer Ph.D., a leading researcher in the field of auto safety and driver distractions at the University of Utah, asserts there are 4 major myths associated with multitasking:

  1. Multitasking is a new phenomena
  2. You can multitask almost anything
  3. Multitasking makes you more efficient
  4. Multitasking can’t hurt performance

A Roadway Example
For example, a driver barreling down the freeway while engaged in text messaging is cognitively captured by texting activities and fails to react to various stimuli in the surrounding world. If traffic is stopped ¼ mile in front of the speeding car and the view is static (meaning no movement and all brake lights are on and unchanging), there are few visual cues to divert the driver’s attention from texting. No changes, no real alert.

The Value of Movement
Peripheral vision in the human eye is weak and not well suited for distinguishing color, shape, or detail. Conversely, peripheral vision is especially effective in noticing flicker and detecting motion. If nothing is happening in the traffic ahead, there are few visual stimuli to alert the driver to stalled traffic. If the oncoming driver is engaged in text messaging and focused on his or her mobile device, “movement” on the periphery of their vision may alert them to the danger and result in accident avoidance; thereby obviating injuries, deaths, and property damage.

While some might argue that bright contemporary brake lights will successfully garner the texting party’s attention, there is little evidence to support those arguments when cognitive tunneling is a factor. Humans are attracted by changes in light, movement of light, disappearance and appearance of light – but not light itself. If light were that effective at garnering attention, our eyes would be drawn to the sun each time we venture outdoors.

Specious at Best
A few companies have unsuccessfully attempted to address driver reaction issues associated with cognitive tunneling by creating a temporary blinking of the third brake light on cars and light trucks, through the use of cheaply manufactured circuitry. Designed for aftermarket installation on passenger cars, these devices cause the brake light to blink a few times at the onset of braking, but fail to provide any tunneling countermeasures once the vehicles have stopped; because their functionality ceases after a few flashes due to a “lockout” technology. That lockout is designed to create compliance with federal laws requiring regular periods of non-flashing while the brakes are applied. Novelty circuits present marginal benefits because the vast majority of rear-end collisions occur after the forward vehicle has completely stopped and remains motionless; during the period when that circuitry is non-functional.

CCM: Computer Controlled Modulation
By contrast, George Jameson, the inventor of Sure Stop Technology™, recognized that computer-controlled pulse width modulation (CCM) of the apparent intensity of vehicular braking indicators, according to a specified pattern, can facilitate early and continued recognition by approaching drivers in trailing vehicles, while remaining compliant with applicable law. Such modulation can capture the attention of the oncoming driver, who may be distracted by cognitive tunneling while focusing on activities within their vehicle (e.g., texting). A predefined CCM pattern, that continues to provide tunneling protection after vehicles have fully stopped, allows for earlier recognition of a potential hazard.

National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies reveal that a single second of “earlier recognition” will result in a 90% decrease in accidents resulting from rear-end collisions.

Sure Stop Technology™
The Genesis modulation device includes an electronic apparatus installed in new vehicles or trailers (OEM or Dealership Installations) that can provide that important second of additional recognition time. The device can be installed in a solitary configuration or integrated into the manufacturing process for new vehicle BCM’s (Body Control Modules, aka vehicular computers) or BICM’s (Brake Indicator Control Modules).

In contrast to other approaches, during a period of continued brake application, Sure Stop Technology’s™ modulation of apparent intensity according to the programmed pattern can be terminated after a specified initial modulation duration, to suppress apparent variation in intensity, but while still continuing to modulate a current or voltage to the braking indicator in a manner that is not apparent to others viewing the braking indicator (e.g., using modulation having a pulse width short enough or using pulse amplitude variation small enough that such amplitude variation, pulse width variation, or pulse amplitude variation is not perceived as blinking or flashing).

Such non-apparent modulation can continue until the brake is released or, for example, until a specified duration expires and the apparent (e.g., highly-visible) specified pattern can again be repeated. In an example, if the brake is released, modulation is terminated. A timer is initiated upon detection of a release of the brake. If the brake is reapplied within a specified duration as indicated by the timer, the electronic apparatus can enter the non-apparent modulation state without presenting the apparent modulation pattern. This can avoid frequent distracting apparent flashing when the brake is momentarily released and quickly re-applied, such as in stop-and-go traffic. In this manner, a lockout scheme is not needed and a control circuit supervising the modulation provides modulation in all states when the brake is applied, but, depending on the state of the electronic apparatus, the modulation may not always be visibly apparent to observers.

Saving Lives
cwazniak-rear-end-collisionMore than 50% of all automobile-related accidents are now said to be rear-end collisions resulting from distracted driving. Studies clearly indicate most of those accidents could be prevented if trailing drivers were alerted to slowing or stopped vehicles ahead equipped with pulse width patterned modulation circuitry like the Sure Stop Technology™ patented by Genesis Systems.


Photos courtesy of Cwazniak

About Genesis
Genesis Systems is the patent holder, manufacturer, and conveyor of miniaturized embedded computerized systems solutions for vehicle safety enhancement.

Click Here for More Information regarding Sure Stop Technology™

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