While self-driving car is still a few steps away from being commercially available, a team of Chinese scientists has come up with an equally innovative technology that could allow you to operate your vehicle with nothing but brain power. Developed after two years of intensive research, the country’s first mind-controlled car comes with a special sensor-fitted headgear that captures electroencephalogram (EEG) signals from the driver’s mind, converting them into commands for a variety of tasks, including forward and backward movements, locking and unlocking the vehicle and so on.
The research was undertaken by scientists from Nankai University, in the Chinese city of Tianjin. Central to the technology is an advanced mind-reading equipment that in turn allows the wearer to control the car’s various functions, without having to move his or her hands and feet. The high-tech headset features as many as 16 sensors that deftly collect the driver’s EEG signals, which are then translated into specific commands using a specially-built computer program. Speaking about the breakthrough, Zhang Zhao, a member of the research team, said:
The tester’s EEG signals are picked up by this (brain signal-reading) equipment and transmitted wirelessly to the computer. The computer processes the signals to categorize and recognize people’s intention, then translates them into control command to the car. The core of the whole flow is to process the EEG signals, which is done on the computer.
According to Duan Feng, a professor at the university’s College of Computer and Control Engineering, the newly-developed system is intended to complement autonomous cars, while also ensuring greater convenience and road safety. The technology, which was demonstrated last month in China, is designed to reduce distraction-related accidents, since drivers are required to concentrate only sporadically, such as when changing lanes or while making a turn. Feng added:
Driverless cars’ further development can bring more benefits to us, since we can better realize functions relating to brain controlling with the help of the driverless cars’ platform. In the end, cars, whether driverless or not, and machines are serving for people. Under such circumstances, people’s intentions must be recognized. In our project, it makes the cars better serve human beings.
At present, this high-tech car can only move in straight lines; something that the team hopes to change in the coming months. While it is not known whether the system will be commercially released in the future, the scientists are currently working with Chinese car maker Great Wall Motors to get the first test vehicle ready for operation. Once fully developed, the technology could help disabled people steer cars, without compromising their safety. Zhang was reported saying:
There are two starting points of this project. The first one is to provide a driving method without using hands or feet for the disabled who are unable to move freely; and secondly, to provide healthy people with a new and more intellectualized driving mode.