Adding a twist to Google’s self-driving cars technology, Chinese researchers have developed cars that can be driven by brain power.
Scientists at the Nankai University in Tianjin, China, in an experiment partnering with Chinese car-maker Great Wall Motor, invented a car that functions without the operator using their hands or feet.
The system uses a headgear and is made up of 16 sensors that work together in order to capture electroencephalogram (EEG) signals from the driver’s brain. The signals are then transformed into orders, obeyed by the one-of-a-kind car.
"The tester's EEG signals are picked up by this (brain signal-reading) equipment and transmitted wirelessly to the computer,” researcher Zhang Zhao told Reuters. “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."
Although this breakthrough technology may sound like fascinating idea, there are some safety concerns. For example, the person controlling the vehicle constantly has to pay attention to what is going on in order to give out signals. Not doing so can lead to accidents.
To counter this problem, project lead and associate professor Duan Feng from the university's College of Computer and Control Engineering said the car only requires people’s attention when changing status, such as changing lanes or turning.
Interestingly, the car cannot be steered by the mind and for now can only drive in a straight direction.
However, this new vehicle could be a brilliant innovation for the disabled, perhaps allowing them to eventually commute without having to depend on another person.
"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,” Zhang said.
The researchers want to integrate this technology with driverless cars so it is more of a complementary service than an alternative to physical driving.