There may be an intermediate step between today’s automobiles and the future’s driverless cars: cars that can read your mind. In Technology Review, Nic Fleming writes about research into “in-car brain sensors” that could detect whether drivers are too fatigued to navigate the roads safely. NeuroSky, a company out of California, says its sensors could work through car headrests, rather than being stuck to drivers’ heads. Since sleepiness is a factor in upward of 100,000 crashes and more than 1,000 deaths per year, such technology could be a remarkable breakthrough in safety. A Neurosky spokeswoman tells Technology Review that the company has had “discussions with three large automakers, which have expressed interest in adopting the fatigue-detection system and have provided seats and headrests for tests.”
On the next mind-reading level, a German company has been experimenting with using EEG sensors to drive, with brain patterns steering, accelerating, and braking the automobile. In a recent issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering, tests subjects were able to hit the brakes faster—by 130 milliseconds—with their minds than with their feet. “Of course, you should never try this at home,” the narrator cautions (one would hope unnecessarily) in this proof-of-concept video titled “BrainDriver”:
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