While a number of major automakers are focusing on ways in which computers can replace human driving, Nissan has chosen to undertake a different path by studying how our brains can augment computer systems in cars.
The Yokohama-based company revealed research on Wednesday into Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) technology, which connects how we think and drive -- and how cars can interpret these signals.
According to Nissan, the technology could revolutionize how we interact with our vehicles in the future and could also allow our transport to adapt to our needs and wants, which could make driving more enjoyable.
B2V technology currently comes in the form of a skullcap which the driver wears. This cap measures brain activity and brain waves, which is analyzed in real-time by a vehicle's autonomous system.
By measuring and interpreting brain waves, Nissan says that the system is able to alter steering, acceleration, and braking, as well as take action before the driver does -- whether this is turning the steering wheel or slowing down the car.
While the driver is still in control and will perform actions themselves, the autonomous system can anticipate actions 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than the driver and begin the change in a way which is "largely imperceptible." This, in turn, can improve reaction times on the road and potentially increase driving enjoyment.
In addition, the autonomous system is able to recognize discomfort and make changes, such as altering its driving style -- or even adjust the car's inner environment potentially through augmented reality in order to relax the driver.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Lucian Gheorghe, a senior innovation researcher at Nissan said:
"We imagine a future where manual driving is still a value of society. Driving pleasure is something as humans we should not lose."
The research is part of Nissan's Intelligent Mobility scheme, which includes a range of projects related to smarter driving.
"When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the machines," said Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci. "Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable."
The B2V technology will be demoed at this year's CES show in Las Vegas later this month.