Google may be developing a self-driving car, but a team of Chinese researchers is one-upping the work being done at Mountain View with a car that is controlled using only your thoughts. Two years in the making, China’s first brain-controlled car was recently demonstrated at Nankai University in the northeast city of Tianjin.
Speaking to Reuters, researcher Zhang Zhao described the system, which is being developed with the help of Chinese car manufacturer Great Wall Motor. The brain control unit fits on the driver’s head and uses 16 sensors that record the electroencephalogram (EEG) signals from the brain. These signals are sent wirelessly to a computer program that filters out the relevant signals and translates them into commands to control the car. “The core of the whole flow is to process the EEG signals, which is done on the computer,” said Zhang.
Using brain control, a driver can move a car forward, place it in reverse, slow to a stop and both lock and unlock the vehicle. In its current iteration, the brain-controlled car can only drive in a straight line, but changing lanes and turning may be possible in the future. The technology also may be used to augment driverless car platforms by allowing the user to exert control over the car when needed. “Driverless cars’ further development can bring more benefits to us, since we can better realize functions relating to brain controlling with the help of the driverless cars’ platform,” said project leader Associate Professor Duan Feng. “In the end, cars, whether driverless or not, and machines are for serving people.”
Initially, the project was conceived as a way to help disabled people who physically cannot drive a car. The brain control mechanism makes it possible for drivers with a disability to control the car without using their hands or feet. It also provides a novel way for healthy individuals to control their car. The technology is still in the early stages of development and currently is being evaluated as a prototype only. There are no plans to incorporate the brain control mechanism into existing car technology.