BrainDriver: Thoughts Drive A Car

Image by Raúl Rojas/Freie Universität Berlin

Imagine you could drive your car using only your thoughts. Raúl Rojas a professor of Artificial Intelligence at the Freie Universität Berlin and his team have demonstrated how a driver can use a brain interface to steer a vehicle. Dubbed the ‘BrainDriver’ project, it is part of a larger research project into autonomous driving, which they call “MadeInGermany.”

To record brain activity, the researchers use an Emotiv “neuroheadset,” an electroencephalography, or EEG, sensor by San Francisco-based company Emotiv, which design it for gaming. After a few rounds of “mental training,” the driver learns to move virtual objects only by thinking. Each action corresponds to a different brain activity pattern, and the BrainDriver software associates the patterns to specific commands—turn left, turn right, accelerate, etc. The researchers then feed these commands to the drive-by-wire system of the vehicle, a modified Volkswagen Passat Variant 3c. Now the driver’s thoughts can control the engine, brakes, and steering.

The researchers caution that the BrainDriver application is still a demonstration and is not ready for the road. But they say that future human-machine interfaces like this have huge potential to improve driving, especially in combination with autonomous vehicles. As an example, they mention an autonomous cab ride, where the passenger could decide, only by thinking, which route to take when more than one possibility exist.

This type of non-invasive brain interface could also allow disabled and paralyzed people to gain more mobility in the future, similarly to what is already happening in applications such as robotic exoskeletons and mind-controlled prosthetics.

Watch the researchers road test of the brain-controlled car on YouTube.

Via IEEE Spectrum

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