Nissan Developing Hands-Free Driving?

By Jason Davis | September 30, 2011
In an effort to take driving out of the hands of drivers, and to put it in the minds of those who have not driven, Nissan Europe and scientists from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland (EPFL) are developing a Brain Machine Interface (BMI) that would allow human thought to maneuver an automobile. The advanced technology sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel, but Professor José del R. Millán, who explores the use of brain signals for the development of non-invasive brain-controlled robots, has already succeeded with disabled users who can maneuver their wheelchairs by thought transference. Of course, if our thoughts can control wheelchairs, why not cars?
That's the thinking that Nissan Europe and Millán's team are exploring. Millán believes that by measuring a driver's brain activity and eye movement patterns while driving, it would be possible to safely predict and complete the driver's intent, whether it's executing a turn, making a lane change, or passing another vehicle on the highway. "The idea is to blend driver and vehicle intelligence together in such a way that eliminates conflicts between them, leading to a safer motoring environment," said Millán. BMI is an impressive idea, especially if it allowed the injured or incapable a greater degree of mobility. But it isn't without fault. Nissan notes that although the technology is well-established in the scientific world, its chief drawback is that it requires "exceptionally high levels of concentration." That's a recipe for failure, at least for Western drivers addled with distracting smart phones and short-attention spans. In thought alone, I am the second-coming of Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher. But the reality is that in skill, I am not Michael Schumacher, and in thought, I wouldn't trust my neighbors, or even my family, to share the road with. Like physical skills, we are all equipped with different thinking skills, many of which pertain to cultural, regional, or educational differences. And that leads to another problem: Trust. Could we really trust the thought patterns of mindless, airheads? Or teenagers? Or anyone who is emotionally unstable? And would this technology inherently promote and mask the dangers of driving under the influence? And what about the law? "Honestly, Officer, I didn't think I was driving over the limit. It must be the BMI!" Commend Nissan for thinking outside the box, but this just seems like another idea that sounds cool at first, but in reality is just dumb.

Source: Nissan