Putting your brain in the drivers seat (w/ Video)

Feb 21, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Picture driving your car without ever touching the wheel, driving a vehicle that is so user responsive to you that it is literally jacked into your thoughts. It sounds like the technology of the future, something out of a sci-fi movie doesn't it? Well, as it turns out, the future is now.

A team of German researchers, led by Raul Rojas, an AI professor at the Freie Universität Berlin, have created a that can be driven entirely by human thoughts. The car, which has been given the name BrainDriver, was shown off to the world in a video that highlighted the thought-powered driving system on a trip to the airport.

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The BrainDriver records activity with the help of an Emotiv neuroheadset, a non-invasive brain interface based on electroencephalography sensors, that was made by the San Francisco-based company Emotiv. The neuroheadset was originally designed for gaming. Like most new devices the human has to be trained in order to use the interface properly. After some practice runs, moving a virtual object, the user can be up and a modified Volkswagen Passat Variant 3c. The driver's thoughts are able to control the engine, brakes, and steering of the car. Currently, there is a small delay between the thoughts and the cars response.

No word yet on how detailed controls will be for other necessary functions, for example opening the gas cap to fill up. The researchers selected the headset after rejecting several other options, including the iPad and eye-tracking devices.

The car is currently only in the prototype phase and no decision has been made as to whether or not this car will ever be made available to the public when it becomes roadworthy.

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More information: autonomos-labs.com/

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User comments : 12

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jjoensuu
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2011
"Picture driving your car without ever touching the wheel"

hmm...from the looks at I-95 I think some people are already doing this.

On another hand I must say that Americans drive far better than people in Dubai...
JRDarby
not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
I don't know how this will work in a culture of distracted people. Phone calls, texting, even wondering what one had for breakfast would interfere dramatically with the device's functioning. And, of course, "there is a small delay between the drivers thoughts and the cars response" is a huge problem.
HealingMindN
not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
If I'm hooked into Brain Driver taking my regularly scheduled route, and I see that hot blond jogging in the skin tight, pink jumpsuit again, what will my car do?
ubavontuba
not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
This is definitely one of the dumbest ideas I have ever read or heard.

Imagine:

Every attractive woman walking along the street ...ran over! Cars flying off cliffs when all we wanted was to admire the view! Mass death and destruction caused by a sneeze! Oh, the horror!

Beard
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2011
Cool concept but taking the human out of the equation entirely is much safer and faster. Just let the AI drive the car, you'll then be free to look at whatever you want.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
Okay, given that looking away for more than half a second at a time leaves you vulnerable to unpleasant surprises, how will a 'mind driver' distinguish between that glance in the mirror, that peek at the TomTom, that snarl at the squabbling back-seat kiddies --Even belted in-- and the look over your offside shoulder at a kamikase taxi ??

The other factor is 'over-learned' routes: It is so easy to lapse into 'commute' and navigate your complex route on autopilot, literally driving with your subconscious. How a system that works with alert drivers on a test track handles a zombie-mode commuter remains to be seen...

Fascinating, yes, but a can of worms.

There's also the legal aspects: If the equivalent of the 'stuck Toyota throttle' strikes, the lawyers get rich...
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2011
Wife: "so the car just drove to the strip club? What were you thinking?!"
nuge
1 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2011
I'd always be thinking about it crashing into trees and stuff, and so it would.
LivaN
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
I see that hot blond jogging in the skin tight, pink jumpsuit again, what will my car do?

I imagine it will continue moving forward and possibly crash into any unnoticed obstacle, just as it would were your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the blond. I can't think of any reason why the mental state of arousal would be a que for the car to preform any sort of maneuver, save slowing down.
TNick
not rated yet Feb 22, 2011
A few months ago I got very interested in Emotiv. There was a guy on the Emotiv forum that was trying to add that device to a handicapped chair. If I recall corectly, he was saying that it's quite hard (exhausting) to control it. And from that to a car is a long distance.

Then again, maybe they have upgraded the head-set.
visual
not rated yet Feb 22, 2011
The worst thing about all this - the headset was originally designed for gaming, and there are plenty of driving games with as much realism as anyone wants. So this whole experiment could have been done with them, and all the questions about distractions and delays and whatever would be answered already, and much safer.
It's nice for a proof of concept, or a personal hobby project by the "researcher" that wanted to have some more fun and realism than computer games (but it still should not actually be allowed on the streets)
It's definitely not something worth spending grant money on, which I fear was the case unfortunately.
jamesrm
5 / 5 (1) Feb 22, 2011
"If I'm hooked into Brain Driver taking my regularly scheduled route, and I see that hot blond jogging in the skin tight, pink jumpsuit again, what will my car do?"

I would think your bonnet would unlatch and fly up :)

rgds
jms