No Thanks: Nissan Wants to Input Your Brainwaves on Tomorrow's Cars
Certain automotive technologies are getting borderline out of hand. But nothing stops the march toward progress. Keen to show off its developmental might, Nissan plans to unveil something called “brain-to-vehicle” (B2V) technology at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show.
While the system borders on the fantastical, Nissan claims it can interpret signals from a driver’s brain to help a semi-autonomous vehicle understand how to best respond.
Considering that most of us have envisioned horrific scenarios where we suddenly veer into oncoming traffic while behind the wheel, we’re not sure how useful this technology is in practice. The mind has a tendency to venture places the hands wouldn’t dare follow, often depicting grizzly scenes we’ve manifested to remind us of the consequences of our actions. Thankfully, Nissan’s system is supposed to work with preexisting autonomous safeguards.
You don’t steer the car with your brain so much as you feed it a constant stream of mental data so it can better serve you.
In the initial test platform, drivers will still use a steering wheel and pedals. However, the vehicle constantly scans your brain via a goofy-looking skullcap and makes adjustments before you’re aware of them. According to Lucian Gheorghe, the senior innovation researcher at Nissan overseeing the project, that translates to improved steering inputs or pedal reaction times of between 0.2 and 0.5 seconds. Essentially, the car reacts in response to brainwaves before the body can.
“We imagine a future where manual driving is still a value of society,” Gheorghe told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “Driving pleasure is something as humans we should not lose.”
While we can see this as a useful feature in performance-oriented applications and like the idea of driving for pleasure, we’re not sure the general public will want to slap on a wig of wires before heading to the grocery store. But with so many companies promising full automotive autonomy in just a few years, manufacturers hoping to preserve driving enjoyment have to do something.
“You are feeling either that you are a better driver or the car is more sporty and more responsive,” Gheorghe, who uses the system himself when commuting to work, explained.
Nissan has said in the past it wants to employ optional autonomy by 2022, allowing drivers to pick and choose when to let the car do the work. But it doesn’t want to completely abandon the driving experience like Waymo does. Its brain-to-vehicle system is interesting to say the least and should offer more than improved reaction times and safety. The automaker says the brainwaves can also help the car modulate driving modes, softening or hardening the vehicle’s inputs based on the operator’s present mood.
Far from complete, Nissan says it wants to continue testing the B2V platform to figure out how to best use it. “The potential applications of the technology are incredible,” Gheorghe said. “This research will be a catalyst for more Nissan innovation inside our vehicles in the years to come.”
Nissan will have the brainwave system equipped on the IMx electric concept car appearing next week in Las Vegas. CES attendees are supposed to be able to hop in and simulate driving on a highway for a few minutes. The whole thing is fascinating, but high-concept developments like these have the bad habit of disappearing after being showcased at trade events.
For example, Toyota has been working on mood-sensing cars since before 2012. While updated incarnations of the technology occasionally appears at various auto shows, nothing tangible has come of it. We’re wondering if Nissan’s B2V will suffer a similar fate.
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