Mind Over Matter: Braking Your Car With Brain Waves
It’s the future. You’re racing down the highway when, all of a sudden, the driver ahead of you slows down. You know you need to hit the brakes to avoid an accident, but your foot can’t move as fast as your brain. You’re about to rear-end the guy, except. …
… except that your car has read your mind. It picks up your brain wavesand automatically slows down. Accident averted.
This is not fantasy. Researchers in Germany have run an experiment with drivers in a car simulator, and they report in the current issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering that they were able to identify brain waves that corresponded to a driver’s wish to press the brake pedal. They tried the experiment with 18 test subjects, each of whom wore a cap wired with EEG sensors. If the drivers wanted to slam on the brakes, the car did it a crucial fraction of a second more quickly than they could.
“Waiting for the driver’s response can lead to a slow response in emergency situations,” wrote Stefan Haufe of the Berlin Institute of Technology. “Therefore, in order to obtain a faster confirmation, our study suggests that it is feasible to detect a driver’s intention to brake, which naturally precedes any observable actions.”
On average, in the study, brain waves told the car to hit the brakes 130 milliseconds faster than the driver’s foot did.