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Your Brain Waves Are a Password: How Your Next Car Will Check You're Not a Thief 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the scan-me dept.
cartechboy writes "And you thought stealing cars was hard today? You're facing locks, kill switches, LoJacks, OnStar, and more. But there's worse on the way: Engineers at Japan's Tottori University have developed a prototype theft-prevention system that uses brain waves to identify drivers. That's right: The system samples your brain waves, stores them--and actually shuts down the car if the driver's EEG signals don't match what's on file. It also busts drunk and sleepy drivers, because their brain waves differ from those when you're fully awake and totally sober. One non-Tron downside: If you want to drive, you have to wear a scary-looking set of sensors on your skull so the car can constantly reads your brainwaves."
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Your Brain Waves Are a Password: How Your Next Car Will Check You're Not a Thief

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  • About face! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday September 13, 2013 @12:40AM (#44837697)

    "One non-Tron downside: If you want to drive, you have to wear a scary-looking set of sensors on your skull so the car can constantly reads your brainwaves."

    In other words - none of this will ever actually see the light of day.

    • Don't worry, the SQUID mesh will be cleverly disguised as a stylish iHat.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        . It also busts drunk and sleepy drivers

        God, if they were to implement this....98% of the cars in New Orleans would never start again?!?!?!

        :O

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Which may be a good thing. What if you are sick and need to drive yourself to the doctor. Car won't start. "I'm sorry Dave, I cannot let you operate the vehicle at this time." The lawsuits will make the accelerator cable mess look like peanuts.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "One non-Tron downside: If you want to drive, you have to wear a scary-looking set of sensors on your skull so the car can constantly reads your brainwaves."

      The bigger downside: anything that changes your brainwaves, like alcohol, stress, exhaustion, anger, or even intense conversation, may prevent your car from recognizing you. Now, shutting off your car whenever a little road rage creeps in is not going to endear this technology to anyone.

    • I bet Apple are kicking themselves because they didn't think of it 1st because foild hats suit Iphone users :D
      • by drcheap (1897540)
        That's okay, they'll just buy up the company that came up with this technology and we'll see it as the next replacement for the finger scanner somewhere around the iPhone 7S timeframe.
  • False negatives? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Friday September 13, 2013 @12:40AM (#44837699) Journal

    What if I'm hugely stressed out because a tsunami or forest fire is coming or my critically injured child needs rushing to hospital or some such? If that changes my brain waves enough to prevent me driving, it would be unfortunate.

    (To be fair, TFA says they're looking initially to use it on buses and armoured cars. I wonder if "masked man is pointing gun at my head and ordering me to drive" sufficiently alters the brain waves.)

    • by bondsbw (888959)

      What if I'm schizophrenic?

      What if I'm schizophrenic?

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      I bet they never tested it on injured or or emotionally stressed drivers. Not to mention that even if they get the driver identification piece exactly right, it will still make it hard to sell your car, hard to lend it to a friend or relative, unserviceable and useless in an emergency. And if you drive it to the bar and you want your designated driver to drive it home because you're wasted? It drastically reduces the utility of the car, plus make a completely fucking the user interface. Great idea guys!

    • by N0Man74 (1620447)

      I was wondering something similar... What can cause changes in an individual brain waves that are either benign or reasonably common place?

    • Sure, a device like this could easily act as a "panic detector", failing to operate at the times you most need it.

      It also makes it really hard to lend somebody your car.

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Simpler than that, how the hell does your mechanic test-drive or even move your car within his shop?

      And if he's got an override gadget... soon enough so will the bad guys. (Define 'bad guys' however you wish.)

  • I'd be happy if the technology could be used just to detect brain waves from the driver and prevents the car starting if it doesn't detect anything.

    Some of the maniac's I see driving around here are beyond comprehension.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Actually, that's a really good point. Having a car that could detect when a person had fallen asleep and automatically hit the brakes could save lives.

      Unfortunately, I think we'll have self driving cars before we can have a car that can detect if it's being driven by an idiot.

      • by Scoldog (875927)
        Either way, the future of driving will be safer and better. Hopefully before too long we will see the widespread adoption of either driverless cars or, to a lesser degree, this technology coupled with stuff like automatic braking and obstacle avoidance and other technology already on the market.

        Personally, I want the driverless cars. A bad driver is a bad driver no matter how much automation they have at their disposal. In fact, I would say that more automation makes a driver worse if the driver is st
        • by Garridan (597129)
          Yeah, so let's look at that robot car plan. They work great where lanes are well marked and road conditions are nice. Where I live, the main highway has been under construction for the last 3 years, and the entrances, exits, and lanes aren't in the same place two weeks in a row. And it rains a lot. And it snows in the winter. How's your robot car gonna handle that? What I hear a lot of people say is "well, humans can take over in adverse conditions." Really? Humans that learned to drive once, but al
          • by hedwards (940851)

            You don't think that can be solved? There may need to be a revision to the MUTCD to accommodate that, but it's not that tough. Just put traffic cones out to indicate the lanes as is. And I'm sure there's a way of updating the maps about where the exits have moved.

            In most cases though, the only reason for a human to take over is if the AI has conked out and the car is still moving. Chances are good that these cars will be programmed in such a way that unless they're deactivated, they'll just come to a stop a

            • by Garridan (597129)
              Simply put, no. I do not believe that robots will be as adaptable as humans in my lifetime. I find it an acceptable risk to be killed by a human in traffic. I find it less acceptable to be killed by a robot. If a human's error kills, there's a process of grief, penance, and liability. If a robot kills... who is responsible? It's a bug in some code somewhere. Your statement about me being in a small town is odd. I said "entrances and exits" of a highway -- small towns generally don't have those... my
              • by celle (906675)

                "my little town of 5 million"

                      That's not a town, that's a country. My small town of about 100 is more like it. The main streets are somewhat paved and the rest are gravel. I doubt self-driving cars would have much of a chance here with the lack of clear marking on the road to reference.

              • by hedwards (940851)

                The point is that robots don't tailgate unless they're programmed to do so, they can maintain a safe distance under the visibility conditions and the robot doesn't get tired.

                The bottom line is that by the time these things are permitted on the roads they'll know how to handle all the conditions that human can handle. They might have trouble under some conditions, but most of the traffic crashes aren't the result of conditions, they're the result of human error.

                Personally, I don't find it to be an acceptable

          • by sFurbo (1361249)
            The robot is not limited to using the visible spectrum, so rain and snow will be less of a visibility problem for it than it is for humans.
            Once the robot have been taught how to handle itself in snow, it will always remember it, in contrast to humans that takes some time remembering how to compensate for skidding if they are not used to it.
            Humans generally suck at updating their model of the world if they don't believe it is necessary. Robots will thus be better equipped to handle changes in entrances, e
          • by tftp (111690)

            Where I live, the main highway has been under construction for the last 3 years, and the entrances, exits, and lanes aren't in the same place two weeks in a row. And it rains a lot. And it snows in the winter. How's your robot car gonna handle that?

            Much better than a human. Often the driver cannot figure out ahead of time what lanes are closed or open because the visibility is poor. But a robot would simply receive a RF signal from the work site, and that signal would contain all the relevant informatio

            • "excuse me gentle madam, but there seems to be a patch of ice 20 meters ahead, can you take the wheel for a moment?"

              Reply: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Huh? What?
              SMASH

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Hi Boss, I can't come to work today. I have a migraine. Yeah, my car refuses to start until I'm well again. I might be in this afternoon."

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Wonder how well it would work on those of us with cluster headaches/migraines and so on. Those rare days when it's only a headache would make thing implode.

  • by flayzernax (1060680) on Friday September 13, 2013 @12:42AM (#44837713)

    By bypassing this system entirely.

    IANACT.

    • Actually... you've heard of criminals cutting off a hand (Red Dwarf) or gouging out an eye (Avengers) to thwart biometric security. Now they'll be cutting people's heads off.

      • by k8to (9046) on Friday September 13, 2013 @01:27AM (#44837971) Homepage

        I believe brain patterns typically alter when the head is separated from the body.

        Your milage may vary.

      • by Scoldog (875927)
        Maybe the onboard GPS system can direct the driver to the local police station when it detects the brain waves from a decapitated head**. Pretty pointless directing them to the local hospital.

        * I don't have a clue how long the brain can generate brain waves after decapitation. If the system can read them, you'd think it would translate into nothing but "FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK".
        • by Bob_Who (926234)

          * I don't have a clue how long the brain can generate brain waves after decapitation. If the system can read them, you'd think it would translate into nothing but "FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK".

          Only if the electrodes can reach the back seat.......like on prom night.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    especially if you are out in the woods, you would have to walk home. (with your thirteen year old son by your side since you can not imprint a car with an illegal driver)

    Personally I would prefer my car being stolen while I'm not using it than me not being able to use when I really need it. What I do to reduce the risk of theft is buy a cheap car. (well no car is cheap... less expensive)

    • by plover (150551) on Friday September 13, 2013 @01:07AM (#44837873) Homepage Journal

      Personally I would prefer my car being stolen while I'm not using it than me not being able to use when I really need it.

      Winner, winner! That's exactly why I have insurance on my vehicles. I'm paying someone else to accept the risk of theft. And they're gambling that I won't be a victim.

      Sure, I don't want my nice new car stolen, nor even my old truck. I take sensible precautions, such as protecting my keys and always locking the vehicles when I leave them, no matter what. But if despite my best efforts, they are stolen, hey, there's some measure of reimbursement. Will I be happy? No. Will the reimbursement get me the same vehicle? Probably not. But will I be without a vehicle for too long? No, the insurance company is well-paid to get me back into a similar vehicle.

      Might the insurance company decide to offer me a discount should I wear this stupid hat? They offer discounts for LoJack systems and other anti-theft measures, so they might offer one for a brain-scanning helmet. Will they someday require them? Probably not unless people really like and accept them.

  • Reminds me of the studies that show how some people's presence can make machines work properly, while other's makes them malfunction.

    I was a mechanic for years and got tired of joking how I could fix a car just by showing up. In contrast, my X would make things go haywire. Whenever she went out shopping, her friends would always get in another checkout line or make her last since they knew something would go wrong with the register once she got near it.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday September 13, 2013 @01:03AM (#44837859)

      Reminds me of the studies that show how some people's presence can make machines work properly, while other's makes them malfunction.

      This might stop joy riding, but it won't stop professional car thieves. It goes a little like this... carefully remove the head lamp cover, remove the lamp, stuff a bunch of tin foil in it. Then kick the bumper. *HONKKkk--zrrrrcccch....* Now pull up the short truck, hook the wench up, drag it up the ramp and into the back, hop out, close the door, drive off. With slight modification to the inside, it forms a perfect Faraday cage for the car's electronics... then drive it to the chop shop... also in a nice big metal cage, chop everything up... remove any tracking devices such as OnStar that weren't disabled when you shorted the battery. Total time from capture to parted out: 2 hours. Which is right about the time you finish filling out that nice long form at the police station about how you had your fancy car parked out front for "only a minute" while you ran inside.

      Guys... I don't know how much clearer I can make this; Criminals already just don't fuck with car alarms or ignition interlocks... they just load the car up wholesale into another vehicle. It's only the gang-bangers and joy riders that mess with that.

      This technology will slow down a car thief for exactly... zero seconds. They don't even need to get in the vehicle to steal it. It doesn't happen like in Grand Theft Auto or like those crime dramas that seem to be clogging prime time TV. In the real world, a team of six professional car thieves can move a dozen cars in a night.

      Oh, I know what you're thinking -- you'll just canvas the local junk yards or ebay and find someone selling your car parts. Yeah, no. Your parts are loaded into large crates, and shipped overseas. Your car is sitting in a dozen different shipping containers a few days after it's stolen. No serial numbers on the parts; Those are just discarded. Don't worry though, when they come back into the country 4--6 months from now, it'll be from a salvage title with new VINs and engine serial numbers. Next time you see a hurricane or a major flood somewhere in the world, think of all those delicious salvage titles being sold off for a few bucks each. Their only value is a new set of serial numbers for a stolen car that was nowhere near the disaster area.

      Money laundering is hard, but laundering car parts? Dead simple. It's a multi-billion dollar industry. But if wearing a silly cap with electrodes in it is what it takes for you to feel like car theft is something that only happens to the other guy because you've got the latest car alarm or interlock system, well, okay.

      But the thieves don't care. Chances are, your car will be in a hundred pieces before someone asks... "Hey... what do we do with this stupid-looking cap?" ... and it winds up in a dumpster somewhere a few hours later, having performed its only real function: Making you feel better.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I think it's mostly things that aren't properly shielded and are particularly sensitive to magnetic interference.

      I know I'll get crap about it, but for some reason my nervous system is capable of polarizing metallic wires. Causing them to cross and uncross in response to my thoughts. It's not particularly useful as a trick. Unfortunately, I still can't do telekinesis. Which would be cool.

    • In contrast, my X would make things go haywire. Whenever she went out shopping, her friends would always get in another checkout line or make her last since they knew something would go wrong with the register once she got near it.

      And for the record, this is a classic example of observational selection bias. Get a new car? Suddenly you notice that same car everywhere. Everyone bought the same car you did! Except they totally didn't, it just seems that way. How about one a little closer to home -- ever had that friend that claimed they could turn off street lights? Or that the traffic signals "have it in for you"? More observational selection bias. Humans have this tendancy to see patterns where none exist -- like seeing faces in clou

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      My wife can't wear wristwatches. Mechanical or electronic, they stop working after a very short time. The watch repair guy finally gave up, suggested she just ask me what time it was.

  • no, no, no no. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Friday September 13, 2013 @12:42AM (#44837721)
    This is a really bad idea. If I need to rush someone to the hospital it doesn't matter if I have two beers in me or if I just woke up. And I don't want my car telling me I'm too sleepy to drive -- and there would be no real difference between "just waking up" and "sleepy" anyway. Let's treating me like I'm all grown up and can make my own damn decisions about when to drive okay?
    • Like that matters - the nanny state needs to keep you safe from yourself.

      Now just wrap yourself up in nerf foam, and lay back and watch reality TV.

      There's a good prole.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        > Now just wrap yourself up in nerf foam, and lay back and watch reality TV.

        ...as you bleed out, because you aren't allowed to drive to urgent care...

    • by gagol (583737)
      Better call an ambulance and get the help to you... safer and quicker.
      • by mbone (558574)

        Better call an ambulance and get the help to you... safer and quicker.

        Maybe. In the USA, first off, ambulances are not free, and, second, they may not be close. If someone out in the country lives an hour from the nearest ambulance, they might not want to wait and they would certainly dispute the "quicker" part.

        Ambulances also have a substantially higher rate of accidents and fatalities [cdc.gov] than the average driver, so they might dispute the "safer" part as well.

  • Let's see. My wife goes into labor at 4:00 AM*, and sleepy and excited I get into the car to drive her to the hospital... only to have the car refuse to start, as my brain waves don't match its stored template. Oh, yeah, that will go over well.

    * That was, in fact, when my wife went into labor.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Let's see. My wife goes into labor at 4:00 AM*, and sleepy and excited I get into the car to drive her to the hospital... only to have the car refuse to start, as my brain waves don't match its stored template. Oh, yeah, that will go over well.

      * That was, in fact, when my wife went into labor.

      Yep, same here. I think they do it on purpose.

  • You lift the car into a EM shielded truck and drive to a EM shielded site.
    Enter the stolen car and get your computer working on the theft-prevention system over a few hours, days...
    Your car turns up tracker free in another part of the world with a compatible new entry system.
    Trusted bodyguard/driver are now the new theft-prevention system.
  • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Friday September 13, 2013 @12:47AM (#44837753)
    Is there enough change in the brain waves of teenagers to detect their growth as being a different person? What about certain disorders that might not effect one's ability to drive or just aging in general? Also, why would it matter if you are drunk of sleepy if your car drives itself?
  • Just a trick by the NSA to collect mind-reading data.

    • This way they know who to probe. This will save us billions of dollars and save millions of sphincters from being unnecessarily stretched.
  • One for each of my multiple personalities.
  • So now instead of cutting off your finger so they can open the fingerprint locks, which involves physical assault, the thieves can just slap an EEG on your head for a few minutes, splice into the wiring and play the recording back after bypassing the sensors. Or they could take advantage of the ability to record more than one person's brainwaves to make themselves an authorized driver (cars will have to allow this because more than one person drives a given car). Or they could use the bypass built-in for le

  • so I can't lend my keys to a friend. and when I have had too much to drink, even if I'm still within legal limits, I can't let my sober friend drive. and I can't drive my own car whenever my brain waves -- which ain't under my control -- are unusual. So if I'm the wrong kind of sick, or if I'm scared, or if I'm in love. If I'm nervous, or if I just lost my job or if my wife is in labour, or if I just learned that she's pregnant, or if my child is injured, or just about any emergency situation that I int

    • by gagol (583737)
      let the friend drive and wear the hat! Or better, dont buy a bus or armored transport truck for your personal vehicle.
  • It also busts drunk and sleepy drivers, because their brain waves differ from those when you're fully awake and totally sober.

    And that equates to how many cups of coffee in the morning?

  • Brain waves. That will prevent someone from loading your car on a truck and driving it away.
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday September 13, 2013 @01:50AM (#44838071) Journal

    ...is get drunk, and *then* have it create a template of your brain waves. Then you have to be drunk or the car won't start.

    • Many cars are driven by more than one driver, such as a husband and wife, and possibly one or more teenage kids. This means that such a car would need to have the ability to store multiple profiles, so just record one profile while sleepy, one profile while drunk, one profile while fully awake and sober. And perhaps a fourth profile while in a state of blind panic in case you ever have to drive to the emergency room, and maybe one where you've just had too much coffee, etc.

      The real difficulty is going
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        well the point would be that while sober you wouldn't record a drunk state. of course it would have a master password for recording a new allowed pattern. and guys with dui's would have to not have the master password.. but for those just alco lock might be better.

        you see, there's a saying that's not entirely false that goes like this "nobody would drunk drive if they decided it while sober".

  • by jamesh (87723) on Friday September 13, 2013 @02:07AM (#44838133)
    Think in Russian...
  • Error: no signal found

  • by _Ludwig (86077)

    Supposedly an EKG can also be used as a unique biometric identifier. There’s a device [getnymi.com] under development with a release target of “early 2014” that uses it for authentication, and it’s just a slim bracelet rather than a crown of wires.

    I have no connection with the company and absolutely no idea if the thing can or will work as advertised, I just happened to be reading about it right as this was posted.

  • because borrowing your car to other people should be illegal (get your own car, you hippie!)

  • They just think about another idea how to lock and unlock something but they don't think further how this new method can be broken. At the start of this year I saw an anime called 'Psycho', a society in which everyones brainwaves are observed to supress violent behaviour...to put it simple. The solution with which terrorists came up was a helmet that copied the brainwaves of the calmest and most balanced person of the area. That allowed it to run havoc but not get caught by the nearly fully automated police
  • ... this apparatus is part and parcel of the car and that dismantling actually makes the car useless, people will find ways to get around it.
  • As pointed out by others [boingboing.net] the problem with biometric passwords is once it's compromised you're S.O.L. If someone manages to record your brainwave pattern how do you go about getting a new one? If someone gets a copy of your fingerprints how do you get new fingerprints? Etc....

    • by gnupun (752725)
      A single, unchangeable password system where the password is not hidden is, in essence, weak. There are also privacy concerns: won't the car companies (and NSA and other secret agencies) now have a database of brainwaves of a large segment of the population? This database could be put to other (illegal) uses than just unlocking a car in the future.
  • ... Mood, Stress level, etc. If your hungry and so on.
    And if your hungry it will start carpet bomb you with burger adds.

  • This article comes right on the heels of a previous one talking about how fingerprints will be used as a biometric to open devices; that article went on to darkly speculate about thieves cutting off victims' fingers to maintain access to stolen goods. Now comes this article, which would suggest thieves either decapitating people and keeping their brains alive in jars, or kidnapping people.

    I just can't wait til some article comes along describing a new technology that allows someone to make an ATM wit
  • My anti-theft device is a rusty 15-year-old vehicle with 190+ miles on it.
  • Jalopnik has accumulated plenty of evidence that driving a stick foils car thieves, simply because they never learned to drive a stick.

    • by PPH (736903)
      Better yet: A knob on the dashboard labeled "Choke". Figure that one out, kids.
      • by scorp1us (235526)

        For vehicles equiped with the 'choke' feature, I think just the fact that they have to press the gas pedal down and release the idle cam would be enough. Interestingly what they don't need to do is hold in the clutch....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hey Bob can I borrow your truck this weekend? Sorry Fred, it only allows my brainwaves and I don't want to pay $2000 additional brainwave license.

  • It also busts drunk and sleepy drivers

    I'm betting that poor fellow who's in jail for teaching people how to beat polygraphs can teach us how to beat the "drunk brainwaves" sensor too.

  • It's not that we can't make the technology, it's that because it's not intrinsic to the actual inner workings of the device, it will always be possible to remove it - and it's likely that it'll be easier to do so than to either put it in or protect it from removal. After all, you can have the most complex lock in the world on your ignition, but if the car thief just pops the plastic case on the steering trunk open, they can hotwire it. Why would this be any different? It may very well defer casual theft,

  • I've never worried about theft of my '76 Chevy C-10. It has an anti-theft device called a carburetor.

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