But that’s already yesterday’s news. Make way for cars that are directly controlled by the mind.
While that might be a scary thought to some, scientists from Nankai University in Tianjin, China have spent the past two years bringing such a vehicle to reality.
Leave the Driving to… Your Brain?
In their recent (and successful) test, a person wearing brain signal-reading equipment was able to control a car. The car was moved forward and backward, as well as brought to a stop. The vehicle could be locked and unlocked, too.
All this was done without the person needing to use their hands or feet!
Project researcher Zhang Zhao explained to Reuters how this feat was accomplished.
Equipment made up of 16 sensors captures EEG (electroencephalogram) signals from the driver’s brain. The signals are wirelessly sent to a computer. The computer processes the signals using a software program developed by the researchers. It selects the relevant signals and translates them to control the car.
And voila, a vehicle controlled by brainwaves!
Similar research has also been conducted at the Free University of Berlin. The team there used a headset and EEG sensors designed by Australian bioinformatics company Emotiv.
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Now, what about driver distraction? One can easily picture a car careening wildly as some teenager is texting.
Luckily, Chinese scientists say the fear is overblown. Intense concentration is needed only when changing the vehicle’s moving status, such as turning or shifting lanes.
Enabling the Disabled
To most of us, it simply sounds like a cool idea. But for others, it would be a godsend.
The Chinese scientists say the idea was born of a desire to help physically disabled people drive. Zhang said the first starting point of the project was “providing a driving method without using hands or feet for the disabled who are unable to move freely.”
If this technology is further developed, it would give disabled people more freedom, allowing them to lead more normal lives.
Aside from helping the disabled, someday the technology may be tied to that of self-driving cars.
Duan Feng, who leads the project, told Reuters that soon it might be possible to combine the brain-controlled car technology with that of driverless cars, such as Google’s.
Before that happens though, both technologies need further development. At this stage, there are no production plans for this type of vehicle.
However, the research is being done in conjunction with Chinese vehicle manufacturer Great Wall Motor Co. Ltd. (GWLLY). This company is best known as China’s largest producer of SUVs.
Obviously, a company like Great Wall wouldn’t be involved if there wasn’t potential for this technology.
Let’s hope Great Wall is right, so humanity can benefit.