Driving a car using only one’s thoughts is no longer the stuff of science fiction. It may not be ready for commercial use, but scientists have successfully completed a road test of the world’s first mind-controlled car.
Created by researchers at the AutoNOMOS labs of Freie Universität Berlin, the technology uses commercially available electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to detect four different patterns of brain activity, which a computer translates to “turn left,” “turn right,” “accelerate,” and “brake.” The road to this achievement was long, as AutoNOMOS says on its website:
After testing iPhone, iPad and an eye-tracking device as possible user interfaces to maneuver our research car named “MadeInGermany”, we now also use Brain Power. The “BrainDriver” application is of course a demonstration and not roadworthy yet but on the long run human-machine interfaces like this could [have] huge potential in combination with autonomous driving. For example when it comes to decide which way you want to take on a crossroad while the autonomous cab drives you home.
The research car was formerly a wholly computer-controlled car, but was re-engineered to be thought-powered. In the new navigation system drivers control a virtual cube with their thoughts, and the cube’s movements are associated with the four driving commands. For example, when a driver envisions the cube moving to the left, the mind-reading machine picks up the signal and turns the car left. A test drive at Berlin’s old Tempelhof Airport was successful, as Science Daily reports:
“In our test runs, a driver equipped with EEG sensors was able to control the car with no problem — there was only a slight delay between the envisaged commands and the response of the car,” said Prof. Raúl Rojas, who heads the AutoNOMOS project.
During a followup test-drive, the scientists had the car drive automatically, but the driver use his thoughts to turn the car at intersections. It’s a beautiful thing when mind and machine can work together seamlessly–and nobody even gets run over.
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