Motorway driving.

  Forum Editor 23:34 25 Feb 2010

For the past two weeks I have been using the M25 to get to and from a series of business meetings. It's never a particular pleasure, driving that motorway, but road work delays on the clockwise section around junction 16 have allowed me time to reflect on the wonders of the human brain.

There we all are, 3 lanes solid with thousands of vehicles, all of us moving along at speeds of around 50/60 miles an hour, in the dark, and sometimes (like this evening) in the pouring rain - spray everywhere. In the road works section the cars and lorries are squeezed into reduced width lanes, so at times I've been travelling with a concrete barrier a metre to my right, a heavy lorry less than a metre to my left, a car a few vehicle lengths in front, and ditto behind.

There are accidents of course, but to me the miracle is that there aren't a lot more of them in such conditions. Each of us is having to process gigabytes of driving data in the process, and make literally hundreds of course corrections and speed adjustments. As all of this goes on we're listening to music, and probably thinking about the day we've had, preparing for the day we're about to have, planning a meal, rehearsing what we'll say in tomorrow's meeting, or processing a thousand other bits of information.

When it comes to the sheer speed of our brain's multi-thread data processing and decision-making each of us makes the most sophisticated of computers and operating systems look like they belong back in the stone age.

Congratulations, all of my fellow M25 travellers, for helping me to travel over 100 miles a day on Europe's busiest road for the past couple of weeks without mishap. Our collective driving abilities amount to one of the modern world's least recognised marvels.

  Chegs ®™ 02:20 26 Feb 2010

God forbid it never happens to you FE.

I was driving around the town in "heavy" (for us) traffic and was contemplating whether to take a short-cut when a car shot out of a side-road at some speed,hit the offside rear of my car and span me round facing back along where I had just driven.This was about 7yrs ago and all I can recall is the panic hitting when no matter what you do with the car controls,the vehicle continues to behave wrongly.I was fortunate that I was travelling at under 30 MPH.I can remember discussing this accident with other taxi drivers and them commenting along the lines of "glad it wasn't on a motorway"(not that anyone could shoot out a side road onto a motorway)yet I was returning from an airport run one evening a year or so later,when some idiot careened into the offside rear and spun me round again.I admit,I was petrified as I was once again facing the wrong way,but this time the vehicles approaching were at motorway speeds.The scare drives all information from my mind,I cannot recall either vehicles colour or make/model and am unable to recall the nearest town for the 2nd accident.I do know it was the M6 in Lancashire but very little else.Our brains might be able to process gigabytes of data simultaneously,but fear can destroy ones ability to process a byte.

  Input Overload 06:59 26 Feb 2010

You are probably listening to music & working out why the BBC player don't work on Firefox anymore at the same time. And we still have capacity to spare along with automatic reflexes, the brain truly is amazing.

  morddwyd 07:56 26 Feb 2010

The average driver probably saves more lives by skill of hand and brain on their daily return journey to work than a surgeon does in a week.

  michaelw 08:59 26 Feb 2010

I have been led to believe our unconscious minds process something like 6 million different things per second. It's probably a bit more for women.

  tullie 09:04 26 Feb 2010

I was going to say less,but my brain said otherwise.

  Mike D 09:25 26 Feb 2010

I agree with everything you say, however I think that a mutant gene must diminish the processing power of fellow travellers on the M5, M6, M42 vicinty. Some of them don't seem to be able to cope with driving whilst texting, shaving, putting on makeup, lighting a fag or, in one case, changing gear whilst moving.

  WhiteTruckMan 10:00 26 Feb 2010

the brain runs at a speed of around 25Mhz. Its amazing processing skills are largely down to the wonders of parallel processing. Although I do think some peoples 'wetware' hasn't been upgraded in quite a while!


  sunnystaines 10:12 26 Feb 2010

what amazes me is the amount of foriegn reg hgv's I see watching tv on the dash as they drive. British m/v's have laws about them being fitted so the driver cannot view while driving.

Very surprised these foreign HGV's dont have more accidents on the motorway while watching tv.

  Kevscar1 10:56 26 Feb 2010

I went to the Doctor a number of years ago as I was scared. I would be driving along and my next recollection would be miles away even in a different town.
I was relived when he told me that meant I was a good driver. My brain was switching to autopilot but at the first sign of danger the concious brain took over.
Just hope I never prove him wrong.

  Quickbeam 11:14 26 Feb 2010

It's the self preservation gene that operates in that circumstance.

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