Drivers to Brake Cars with Thoughts, Not Pedal
CREDIT: Berlin Institute for Technology in Germany
A vehicle capable of reading its driver's mind could slam on the brakes as soon as the human behind the wheel sees a looming car crash or a child running across the road. Now German researchers have shown the potentially life-saving advantage of detecting such brain signals even before a driver's foot moves to press the pedal.
Driving simulator trials showed how the brain-reading technology could cut down braking distance by the full length of a compact car if driving at 62 mph (100 km/h). That difference of 12 feet (3.66 meters) could easily make the difference between life and death on the highway, as well as reduce car insurance and medical bill expenses.
"We are now considering [testing] the system online in a real car," said Stefan Haufe of the Berlin Institute for Technology in Germany. "However, if such a technology would ever enter a commercial product, it would certainly be used to complement other assistive technology to avoid the consequences of false alarms that could be both annoying and dangerous."
The German team used the electroencephalography (EEG) technique of attaching electrodes to test subjects' scalps as a way of reading brain signals. That system can detect a driver's intention to brake 130 milliseconds faster than a typical brake pedal response, especially in combination with modern traffic sensors to detect impending collisions.
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Test drivers tried to stay within 66 feet (20 meters) of a computer-controlled car in the driving simulator. The computer randomly triggered emergency braking situations so that researchers could record the time it took to physically hitting the brake pedal, as well as the deceleration and distances between vehicles.
Researchers even measured the muscle tension in the lower leg to detect leg motion even before it moved to hit the brake pedal.
Some modern cars already use computer assistance with lasers and sensors to detect possible car collisions and react as soon as the brake pedal is touched. But as the German study shows, a mind-reading system could combine both human and computer reactions for the best life-saving results while fooling around with cars of the future .
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