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Curr Biol. 2001 Aug 7;11(15):1215-20.

Steering with the head. the visual strategy of a racing driver.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, United Kingdom.


We studied the eye movements of a racing driver during high-speed practice to see whether he took in visual information in a different way from a normal driver on a winding road [1, 2]. We found that, when cornering, he spent most of the time looking close to, but not exactly at, the tangent points on the inside edges of the bends. Each bend was treated slightly differently, and there was a highly repeatable pattern to the way the track edge was viewed throughout each bend. We also found a very close relationship between the driver's head direction and the rate of rotation of the car 1 s later. We interpret these observations as indicating that the driver's gaze is not driven directly by tangent point location, as it is in ordinary driving. Instead, we propose that his head direction is driven by the same information that he uses to control steering and speed, namely his knowledge of the track and his racing line round it. If he directs his head at an angle proportional to his estimate of car rotation speed, this will automatically bring his head roughly into line with the tangent points of the bends. From this standardized position, he can use the expected movements of the tangent points in his field of view to verify, and if necessary modify, his racing line during the following second.

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