Look, Ma, No Hands! Steering a Car Via Mind Control
Prototype vehicle named MadeInGermany takes test run at Germany airport.
Car steering wheels could someday become obsolete thanks to a new technology that would let drivers control their vehicles with brain waves.
While not yet ready for prime time, the research team sees applications that include a driverless taxi that lets the passenger select the route simply by thinking it.
The driver would wear a headset complete with sensors that measure electrical activity of the brain and an interface that connects the brain waves to a computer-controlled vehicle . Special software and calibration would allow the interface to convert the brain waves into a driving direction.
So far, the researchers have built a prototype car called MadeInGermany and completed two test runs of the technology. What they found: A driver could control turning the vehicle right and left using his or her thoughts, with only a slight delay between the driver’s thought and the car’s reaction to the thought.
"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 Raul Rojas, a professor of artificial intelligence at the FreieUniversität Berlin.
The researchers built the steering system with commercially available sensors used to measure electroencephalograms (EEG) called Emotiv EPOC, a computer chip to communicate the translated commands to the car, and an interface to connect the sensor output to the computer.
They then had participants wear the headset while thinking of four different commands: "brake,""accelerate," "turn right" and "turn left." Once patterns for each command were deciphered, they were fed into the computer, which would later be embedded into the prototype vehicle.
The new brain-powered technology has evolved over the past few years as part of a project called AutoNOMOS aimed at developing technology for driverless cars of the future. The research team has developed an iPhone, iPad, and an eye-tracking device in addition to sensors that measure brain waves as a means to control vehicles autonomously.