By recognising whether a driver is about to brake, swerve, or perform some other evasive move, Nissan says that this “brain-to-vehicle” interface could help a car with semi-autonomous capabilities begin those actions between 0.2 and 0.5 seconds faster.
The company plans to put the technology on display this week at the CES show in Las Vegas. So far, details are sketchy. “It’s something that’s being shown in a relatively early phase, and is not yet close to implementation,” a representative for Nissan said last week. “We are aiming for practical application in 5 to 10 years.”
The ability to measure and interpret neurons firing in the brain has come a long way over the years, and it is possible to associate those patterns with specific activities. The devices that are typically used to perform these measurements, though, can be cumbersome and come with limitations.
The company has been working on the project with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which helped create the Cybathalon, a competition where people with disabilities competed in challenges using assistive technologies like EEG. It’s also collaborating with the National Institute of Scientific Research in Canada, and Bitbrain, a Spanish company focused on brain-computer interfaces.
Many questions remain. How would the brain-to-vehicle system handle a situation where a driver makes one quick decision, but then immediately changes their mind, or encounters a new obstacle? At what point would the car’s own autonomous system, using the data it’s gathered through cameras or LIDAR and radar, override the brain computer interface — or should it? And will this tech even be ready before fully autonomous cars hit the road?