JAN 10, 2018 6:32 AM PST

This is Your Brain in the Driver's Seat

In the comic books and cartoons of the 1950s and 1960s, the future was where it was at. Flying cars, robot household help, and space travel were all common themes. The technology has advanced enough that space travel is commonplace now, robots that assist in the home are a thing, and while flying cars haven't happened quite yet, there is something else being developed; a car that is driven by brain waves.

While still in the prototype stages, Nissan is working on what they have dubbed BRV for "Brain-to-Vehicle." With CES 2018 as a venue, the car is sure to get a lot of attention as well as bring a lot of attention to the neuroscience research that allows the brain to interface with external devices directly.

The car is part of Nissan's Intelligent Mobility program, which is forward thinking on how cars are powered, driven and used by future drivers. Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci stated, "When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the machines. Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable. Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility, we are moving people to a better world by delivering more autonomy, more electrification, and more connectivity."

The car will work by using software that can decode brain activity. The goal is to use research that Nissan has conducted on predicting a driver's actions in any given traffic situation and detect when the driver is uncomfortable, perhaps because of an oncoming hazard. Predicting a driver's intent to make a particular move, like tapping the brakes or using a turn signal may result in a faster reaction. If the car knows the next move the driver is considering, that move can be initiated immediately, rather than waiting for a human response which could be slowed by age, distraction or physical mobility issues. It could eventually mean a car is entirely controlled by the brain, or it could just be a tool to enhance the driver's ability.

Detecting an occupant or driver's discomfort, which could happen if the Artificial Intelligence (AI) is good enough, would be a back up to an entirely autonomous mode. If the car was going along, driving on its own and fear or anxiety was detected, the vehicle would be signaled to double check the environment for road hazards, oncoming traffic or pedestrians.

Dr. Lucian Gheorghe is a senior innovation researcher at the Nissan Research Center in Japan, leading the B2V research. He explained, "The potential applications of the technology are incredible. This research will be a catalyst for more Nissan innovation inside our vehicles in the years to come." Nissan has said the system will work by having the driver of the vehicle wear a device that picks up brain waves. The software in the car will collect this data and then instruct the system to make the choices the driver intends. Nissan researchers say the technology could be 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than a human driving the vehicle. The company will have a simulator at CES 2018 to demonstrate the system. Take a look at the included video if you won't be stopping by the Nissan booth.

Sources: Nissan, CNN, The Verge

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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