Scientists devise mind-controlled car braking system


Researchers are working on a mind-reading system for cars that will allow drivers to control the brakes as soon as the thought to stop occurs to them, reports New Scientist. The technology is intended to help the car stop faster, and potentially save lives, injury and damaged property.

The mind-reading braking system is being developed by Stefan Haufe and a team of researchers at the Berlin Institute of Technology in Germany. Though still in the testing stage, their technology could cut milliseconds off of the time it takes drivers to press on the brake pedal. That may not sound like a lot, but considering a car going 60 MPH travels 88 feet in a single second, it’s not hard to see how any moment saved is valuable.

The research team tested 18 volunteers who were asked to drive about 62 MPH (100 kilometers per hour) on a driving simulator, and tailgate the car in front. Using an EEG headset that monitors brainwaves, the team were able to pinpoint the specific brain activity that occurred when a test subject was forced to brake. Additional sensors on a volunteer’s leg monitored muscle tension, which would occur as soon as the person intended to brake.

With this information, the team was able to engage the car’s braking system as soon as the relevant brain waves and muscle tension were detected. This enable the simulated vehicle to stop 130 milliseconds sooner than if the person simply hit the pedal. At around 60 MPH, this is enough to reduce stop time by about the length of a car — theoretically enough to stop many accidents.

While some of the teams peers in the scientific community commend the study for testing such capabilities at relatively high speeds, others say the study is flawed because the test subjects were alert and fully prepared to stop, which is not often the case in real life driving scenarios.

Watch a short video about the study:

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