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4 Driving Lessons From Self Driving Cars

4 Driving Lessons From Self Driving Cars

As Google leads the initiative on the development of self driving cars, we have a lot of opportunities to learn about what it takes to teach a computer how to drive. According to a study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, self-driving cars have so far done a better job staying out of car crashes and minimizing their consequences compared to human-driven cars.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re free of accidents. Google realized during its self-driving car experiment that the biggest danger to a self-driving car would be the unpredictable and sometimes neglectful nature of human drivers.

The company’s experiment has given it the chance to learn some valuable lessons in how to drive safely, including some that humans could benefit from too. Here are four driving lessons we can learn from self-driving cars.

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  1. Look beyond the car in front of you

Google’s car uses sensors to identify and anticipate objects in the distance in order to take them into account. This enables it to avoid hitting obstacles that could catch it by surprise.

Human drivers lack  some of the sensors Google’s self-driving car boasts, but we can instead rely on vigilance to maintain awareness of where others are as they move around you, even if they’re not immediately in front of you.

It’s also critical to look left and right, not just follow the directives right in front of you, before driving. For example, rather than merely using a red or green light to identify if you should go, be sure to also consider whether any pedestrians look like they’re planning on crossing. They often have right of way and you don’t want to break suddenly to avoid hitting someone that you neglected to take into account because it wasn’t a car in front of you.

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  1. Anticipate the actions of other drivers

It is obviously impossible to perfectly guess what drivers around you are planning on doing, but an educated guess is often helpful on the road.

For example, if a car in front of you is slowing down and you know an intersection or street is coming up, consider the possibility that they are going to turn, and move out of the away or slow down yourself to avoid rear-ending them.

It’s also important to consider what other drives may not realize. A car may be indicating that they’ll turn with a turn signal, but if they’ve had the signal on for a long minute without moving they may have forgotten it was turned on at all.

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Other drivers won’t follow the rules perfectly, and it’s important to try to accommodate for human intention and human error.

  1. Learn the roads around you

Your usual route to work may be familiar, but it turns out that familiarity may encourage you to tune out and put yourself and other drivers at risk.

Rather than sticking to your same routine every single day, consider alternate routes that are available to you. You can check a map of local accident hotspots to find areas to avoid. These give you the option of varying your travel, but it also allows you to adjust your route in anticipation of events such as traffic jams or rush hours.

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Learning alternative routes allows you to calculate for yourself new options on the go and helps you get out of ruts, bumper to bumper traffic and other stressful situations that can lead to an accident.

  1. Don’t take risks on the road

Google’s self-driving cars have garnered some complaints that they drive too carefully, making it slow and overly cautious. However, the car’s decreased accident statistics indicate that it probably know best how to minimize the impact of a car accident, making it an excellent driver for others to model themselves after.

That means that taking extra precautions, anticipating the actions of others, avoiding sudden turns, speeding up or slowing down quickly and using non-aggressive drying is objectively the best choice for drivers to protect themselves. Although it won’t take you where you need to go as quickly, it will get you there safely, which is infinitely more important.

Self driving cars are likely the future of cars, but in the meantime, humans will continue to be behind the wheel, and while we remain in the driver’s seat, we would do well to learn from our future drivers how to keep ourselves safe.

Featured photo credit: Gordon Tarpley via flic.kr

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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