03-01-2018 | By Paul Whytock
Imagine this. Your car reads a signal from your brain that you are about to turn the steering wheel or hit the brake pedal and it assists you by starting the action more quickly.
It’s called Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) technology and it could become a reality some time during the next decade.
Personally I find the thought of it a nightmare. The human brain is well recognised as an outstanding computer that can absorb and react to huge amounts of information in a split second which is why statistically humans are generally speaking pretty good drivers. But we do have our weaknesses.
Integral to the human psyche are quirks, impulses and moods. And you really wouldn’t want your car reacting to some of them; although if you storm out of your house in a filthy temper and your car decides not to start this could be a good thing.
This idea of a car reacting to human thought and emotions is not exactly new but B2V is the latest innovation to be announced and comes from Japanese carmaker Nissan.
It follows a recent and similarly themed announcement from Japanese chipmaker Renesas about its R Car “emotion engine” technology. Actually that’s not a car at all but an SoC that integrates a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 processor. And in the words of Renesas this works with the emotion engine and consists of two elements. The first is voice emotion recognition and the second is described by Renesas as emotion generation technology that generates emotions for the device by forming a virtual hormone balance derived from various connected sensors. Apparently this makes it possible to perceive the speaker’s emotion by charting an emotion map as both a colour, for example, yellow for happiness and red for sadness, and as volume level from 1-10.
And if your brain is bigger enough to grasp that concept then in my view you certainly don’t need any help driving a car!
The Nissan “brainmobile” B2V concept is different. It uses what the company describes as brain decoding technology which can predict a driver’s actions.
This says Nissan can improve reaction times and enhance manual driving. By detecting and evaluating driver brainwaves, artificial intelligence can change the driving configuration or driving style when in autonomous mode.
The system would determine the driver’s intended movement (e.g. turn the steering wheel) and signal the car to react accordingly. B2V can respond 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than the driver, while remaining largely imperceptible.
Largely imperceptible – does that mean the driver wouldn’t know a thing about it? A car travelling at 10mph travels approx 8 feet in 0.5 secs and turning 8 feet too soon in some driving situations could have unhappy consequences.
And what happens to this brain decoded B2V initiative when the driver is approaching traffic lights on amber and is dithering whether to be an amber gambler or play it safe? Will B2V instructions click in with a resulting frenzy of braking-then- accelerating-then-braking options kangarooing the car up the road while the driver’s brain makes up its mind?
Apparently Nissan’s aim is to provide the optimum level of driving assistance so that drivers can be in complete control of their cars and B2V will best match the driver’s driving style.
Interesting stuff, particularly as the average human brain has between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per 24 hours which works out to about 35 to 47 thoughts minute, many of which could result in the development of some very interesting driving styles.