Not all fun and games

Aug. 2, 2018

Some forms of entertainment can actually make our roads safer

Jumping at the chance

As the tallest glass-bottom bridge in the world, China’s Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge has been testing the courage (and turning the stomachs) of visitors for the past two years.

This summer, bridge officials will offer a new adrenaline thrill.

A bungee jump platform has been added to the bridge, giving visitors a chance to experience a world record 853-ft free fall.

The attraction opened in August, and also includes a bungee-themed bar and restaurant where those of sound mind can enjoy bungee-themed drinks from a secure location at the end of the bridge.

In the coming years, officials plan to add additional blood-pumping activities, including a slide and the world’s longest swing.

Hopefully the new attractions will have a smoother launch than the bridge itself, which had to be shut down for safety modifications just two weeks after opening to handle the overwhelming number of visitors.

Remote cone-trol

If you’re looking to defy death closer to home, try setting up road cones along a construction zone.

British engineers believe they have developed a solution for this dangerous process: Robo-cones.

The motorized cones sit on three wheels and can be directed to move on and off the road by remote control.

Each one also is fitted with a GPS tracker to reduce theft, which is good because Robo-cones cost around 20x more than traditional cones.

Engineers envision a future where Robo-cones could communicate with vehicles, notifying drivers of upcoming delays to avoid congestion, or automatically blocking off roads when an accident is detected.

Mind games

New research proves that your teenage nephew has been right all along: video games improve our lives.

First there was a study out of China in 2016 showing that playing action video games like Mario Kart or Call of Duty boosted the essential visual motor skills used for driving.

Now scientists are claiming that online cognitive training games like BrainHQ or CogniFit can make us better drivers by improving our attention, processing speed and navigation.

A recent study shows that these exercises can be particularly helpful for older drivers.

As we age, our brains become slower at processing information, especially from our peripheral vision. Researchers from Penn State found that brain-training games were able to improve cognitive speed in older drivers and reduce the risk of at-fault accidents by nearly 50% over a six-year period.

Put to the test

Video games also are being used to identify driver impairment on the job where issues like fatigue, illness or emotional distraction can’t be detected with a traditional urine test.

Employees establish a baseline for their own unique alertness levels by playing the game several times.

Then at the start of each shift, they take the test again using a smartphone app. By comparing their score to their baseline, the app tells them (and their supervisor) if they are safe to work, or if a problem has been detected.

Systems like AlertMeter have been developed for workplaces, and apps like Druid give drivers a similar method to assess their own impairment off the job.

Getting too comfortable

Of course, video games aren’t always an ideal solution, like when a rider on New York’s Metro-North commuter rail recently turned a train car into a mobile man cave.

The man boarded in New York City and, like many riders, pulled out a video game to pass the time.

But this game wasn’t played on a handheld device.

The man set up a PlayStation console and a large monitor on the seats across from him, plugged both into outlets underneath the seat, and settled in for his 90-minute ride to Beacon.

But what really irked his fellow passengers was when the man took off his sneakers and used the seat next to his game setup as a foot stool.

New York commuters are used to riders taking up too many seats, and they don’t blink an eye at strange behavior, but taking your shoes off definitely crosses a line.

About The Author: Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.