Could mind reading cars become a reality?
By Joe Harker
In several fantastical visions of the future humanity gets around in flying cars, but Nissan is going for a different tack by developing a car that responds to brainwaves, essentially leading to the development of a mind-controlled car.
The company is trialling "brain to vehicle" technology that could improve reaction times or make the journey more comfortable for the driver.
Test drivers have to wear a skull cap that reads a person's brain waves and can interpret them as instructions for the car, hypothetically allowing tasks to be carried out even quicker. If the driver thinks about turning the car they might be able to do it with their mind faster than they could with their hands.
Daniele Schillaci, Nissan Executive Vice President, was quick to reassure people that their technology would be a union of man and machine rather than giving over complete control. He said: "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."
The Sun reports that mind-reading cars could be available on the market in five years time, possibly making a significant impact on the way people learned to drive or operated vehicles. If the technology became available for a mass market it could lead to new legislation. If there is a fault from a driver wearing a mind control headset it could open up a new level of legal concerns.
WIRED's report on Nissan's project suggests they want to improve they way people drive rather than replace them altogether. They will make reactions sharper rather than putting control of the car wholly in the hands of an easily distracted and perhaps difficult to understand brain. It will also detect problems the driver is having with the ride and change them, adjusting the suspension if for example the driver is feeling uncomfortable.
Nissan's efforts are not the first time mind controlled cars have been tested. The University of Berlin worked on a system called Brain Driver designed to help people with physical disability. They were able to get a person to drive a car at 30mph and make turns at junctions using their minds They struggled to get Brain Driver to work for a commercial audience as it didn't work for everyone and wasn't a guaranteed success. Their test drivers had to train their brains to put out signals that the equipment could pick up on and interpret.