The Truth About Cars » Science The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:31:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Science Question: What Ten-Year Period Was the Auto Industry’s Greatest Leap Forward? Fri, 05 Apr 2013 13:00:09 +0000 Once I get to ranting on the subject, I’ll fulminate that the true modern era of the automobile didn’t start until about 1990, when carburetors and points ignitions finally disappeared from new cars sold in the United States. Before and after that point, however, a lot of progress— and backsliding— has taken place in the automotive industry. Which brings up the question: what ten-year period, starting with Karl Benz’s Patent Motorwagen in 1886, saw the most improvement, innovation, whatever you want to call it, in the automotive world?
You may choose to give most emphasis to advances in engineering and materials, in which case the advances made by GM and its rivals during the 1946-1956 period might be most important. Or maybe Mr. Ford’s greatest hit and resulting huge lowering of the cost of a new car could give the win to 1909-1919. European cars sure looked beautiful from, say, 1958 through 1968, and you can’t write off the bang-per-buck advances in build quality accomplished by Japanese automakers during the 1975-1985 period. But wait— how about electronic fuel injection and engine controls, which became standard equipment on even the lowliest econoboxes during the 1980s? And do we even consider any period containing 1939-45, a period during which the major carmaking countries were too busy blasting one another to crap to do much automotive innovation, but which produced a lot of engineering advances that went into cars later on? Or, what the heck, we’re living in the Golden Age of Ridiculous Horsepower right now— could be that 2003-2013 gets your vote! Your thoughts?

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“Super Taskers” Can Phone and Drive. The Rest of Us Should Shut Up Mon, 29 Mar 2010 22:20:03 +0000
Most people can’t concentrate on the road while talking on the phone, as Jack E. Robinson, a Boston businessman and former candidate for governor of
Our Fair State discovered when he became the butt of jokes after crashing his car while participating in a radio call-in show. But one in forty people can do both at once, according to a new study from the University of Utah.

These individuals, which the researchers dubbed “supertaskers,” constitute a mere 2.5 percent of the population. The researchers–University of Utah psychology professors David L. Strayer and Jason M. Watson–hasten to add that the study confirms that most people CAN’T do both at once.

Watson and Strayer assessed the performance of 200 Utah undergraduates single-tasking simulated freeway driving, and again while simultaneously “driving” and holding a cell phone conversation in which they memorized words and did math problems.

When talking while driving, the non-supertaskers took 20 percent longer to hit the brakes, and following distances rose 30 percent as drivers failed to keep pace with the simulated traffic. Memory performance declined 11 percent, and ability to do simple math problems fell by three percent.  However, supertaskers displayed no change in their normal braking times, following distances, or math ability, and their memory abilities actually improved three percent.

Interestingly, the supertaskers’ performance on single tasks also was markedly superior to that of the run-of-the-mill H. sapiens.

In neuroimaging studies, the driving-cell phone multitasking appears to overtax the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex, the executive region of the brain, says Strayer. This shows up as unusually high metabolism in that region.

Watson and Strayer suspect that the supertaskers may be able to farm part of the work of multitasking out to other parts of the brain, based on studies of elderly adults who have shown little cognitive decline which were conducted by Roberto Cabeza of Duke University. These have shown “bilateral activation, both left and right brain trying to solve a problem,” says Strayer. “It’s like trying to lift a weight with both arms versus one arm.”

Watson and Strayer are now studying expert fighter pilots, who they think may have extraordinary multitasking ability.

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