Nissan’s Brain-to-Vehicle tech lets you control your car with your thoughts

Firefox isn’t just the name of a web browser. It’s also a 1982 movie starring Clint Eastwood based around a fictional Russian fighter jet controlled by the pilot’s thoughts. Someone at Nissan is apparently a fan of that movie.

Nissan’s experimental “Brain-to-Vehicle” (or “B2V” for short) technology allows cars to interpret signals from a driver’s brain. It doesn’t allow drivers to fire missiles with their thoughts, but Nissan believes the technology could help improve future driver-assistance systems and make self-driving cars more human friendly by putting machines and people on the same page.

B2V can read an interpret a person’s brain activity in real time, and feed that information into a car’s various systems. The driver wears a helmet studded with sensors to make that happen. By analyzing brain activity, a car can predict when a human driver is about to take an action, such as turning the steering wheel or tapping the brakes, and respond accordingly.

This essentially allows the car to predict what the driver is going to do, according to Nissan. The automaker claims B2V allows driver-assist systems to make control inputs 0.2-0.5 seconds before a human driver. B2V also allows these systems’ interventions to be less obvious, Nissan says. The goal is for a person to feel like they are driving without any electronic assistance. Many current driver-assist systems can be a bit unpredictable or heavy handed in their responses, so it’s not as if this is a problem that doesn’t need to be addressed.

In fully autonomous cars, B2V could also analyze levels of occupant discomfort and adjust the car’s driving style to give people a more pleasant experience, according to Nissan. The technology could even be used to cue up different augmented-reality displays based on a person’s thoughts, the automaker says. That’s assuming Nissan can perfect the technology, and convince the average person to accept the somewhat-creepy idea of a car monitoring their brain activity.

B2V isn’t anywhere near ready for use in production cars, but Nissan will demonstrate it at CES 2018. The automaker is also pushing ahead with more advanced driver-assist systems and fully autonomous cars, thought-based interface or not.