It might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the possibility of a car that can read your mind is likely to soon be a reality. The incredible technology that will make it possible is commonly referred to as Brain to Machine Technology (BMT). It has previously been experimented with for the purpose of improving mobility for people in wheelchairs. BMT-controlled wheelchairs allow for the user to control the movement of the chair by simply thinking about it.
Using this technology in cars may sound a little trivial, but many researchers believe it could greatly improve road safety. A collaboration between Nissen and swiss scientists at The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in 2011, found that by using BMT, a car would be capable of predicting a driver’s intention to turn left or right and prepare for the turn in terms of speed and positioning. This research team also found that BMT requires high levels of concentration for the driver. To improve the car’s chances of predicting the driver’s movements the team at EPFL developed a system that used statistical analysis to predict a driver’s next move. The system would measure brain activity, monitoring eye movement patterns, and scanning the environment around the car to predict the driver’s next move.
Another research team at Nankai University in China has also been developing technology that will allow for a driver to control their car using their mind. These researchers used electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to capture signals from the driver’s brain. Then they created a computer system that selects the relevant signals and translates them into commands to control the car, like ‘drive forward’ or ‘reverse’.
Most recently a concept was introduced to Formula 1 by McLaren Automotive, proposing the potential technology for a race car to incorporate a BMT interface. This technology would theoretically allow the driver to control the car with their mind simply by wearing a helmet.
It is hard to be sure how long it will be before these cars evolve from experimentation and concept phase to real life products. We also don’t know for sure which company will be the first to have regular everyday drivers controlling cars with their minds. But judging by the rate at which this technology is being developed, it probably won’t be long.
Image credit: Freie Universität Berlin