No Thanks: Nissan Wants to Input Your Brainwaves on Tomorrow's Cars

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
no thanks nissan wants to input your brainwaves on tomorrows 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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2 of 8 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Jan 03, 2018

    Nissan: the car from Betazed.

  • IBx1 IBx1 on Jan 05, 2018

    Thinking "that car is doing 55 in the passing lane of a 75mph road, we should put him in the wall so he learns" Can I blame it on the car?

  • MaintenanceCosts I saw my first IS500 out in the wild today (a dark-grey-on-black example) and it struck me that it was much more AMG-like than this product. (Great-looking and -sounding car.)
  • ToolGuy
  • Art Vandelay Props for trying something different. EVs should work well in this sort of race. The similar series running ICE run short distances like that
  • ToolGuy Well they wet the track down using sea water - from the South Pacific Ocean. Oceans may have a large amount of water, but it isn't infinite, is it? No, it isn't. So if this sport really takes off, what will happen when the ocean is drained? (And once you put the water on the dirt, how does it ever get back to the ocean?)
  • Bobbysirhan Some friends of mine were dazzled by a CUE demo that circulated on YouTube before this car reached the market. I was bewildered why anyone wanted a car as durable and dependable as their cellphones, but to each their own. One of them did actually show up with an XTS V-sport when the car first came out. He showed people CUE in my driveway, but I don't recall him offering demonstration rides to the assembled imported luxury car drivers. In the months that followed, I never saw or heard about the Cadillac again. He went back to driving his Yukon Denali until I moved away a year or two later.