There may come a day when drivers can legally get behind the wheel of a car and say "look ma, no hands!"
While the basic manner in which humans steer their vehicles has remained virtually unchanged for about as long as automobiles have been on the road, we may be at the cusp of a driving renaissance. Researchers have already modified cars to drive themselves, allow the blind to drive and be controlled in a myriad of unconventional ways.
For instance, the AutoNOMOS Labs research team at Freie Universität in Berlin has developed an iPad app that lets users order a self-driving car to come pick them up, and a series of modifications that allow a vehicle to be controlled remotely using an iPhone.
Now those same researchers have developed a technology that allows people to control a car using just their brain. It's far from road ready, but scientists felt confident enough in their work to wow the public with a video demonstration.
Prior to driving, drivers must put on an EEG device and use it to train their brains to move objects displayed on a screen. A software program called BrainDriver records this information and uses it to read and understand the intentions behind specific kinds of brain patterns.
For the demonstration, the researchers modified a Volkswagon Passat to carry out brain commands by installing an intricate system of cameras, GPS, laser scanners and radar that helps the car get a good feel for road conditions, which the vehicle uses to make the proper turns, brake, and accelerate. The driver's intentions are detected using a headset comprised of EEG sensors and relayed to a computer program that accurately interprets the various brain inputs and executes the commands.
Here's the demonstration video:
The researchers didn't mention which consumers would be interested in a mind-controlled car, but I can see a potential application for the disabled who are physically unable to steer their cars. And I guess people who just really don't like turning the steering wheel might be interested as well.
To learn more about projects at AutoNOMOS labs, check out their website