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Transportation Technology

A Car You Can Drive With Your Thoughts 137

An anonymous reader writes "German researchers have demonstrated a car that can be driven with brain power alone. In the video, a driver wears an EEG head cap, which records brain activity. Software converts the neural signals into steering and acceleration commands, feeding the data into the car's drive-by-wire system. The brain-car interface, which the researchers call the 'BrainDriver,' is far from being commercially viable. But it could one day allow disabled and paralyzed people to gain more mobility. It could also, the researchers say, help people control autonomous vehicles, like a future driverless cab; just by thinking, passengers would tell the cab where to go."
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A Car You Can Drive With Your Thoughts

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  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:42PM (#35244592)

    ...when the driver spots a totally hot jogger on the sidewalk.

    • Or worse, you get pissed off at others and just want to start ramming them.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        On rare occasions I have had involuntary thoughts of veering into oncoming traffic....not that I've actually done it, obviously.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's exactly what happens in Macross Plus, except that it's a thought-controlled airplane in an exercise with two rival pilots.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          That's exactly what happens in Macross Plus, except that it's a thought-controlled airplane in an exercise with two rival pilots.

          So.... it's not actually exactly what happened in Macross Plus, is it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He nails her?

    • I think this could only be viable if we had an I-Robot like automatically driving car situation. So you could just think of where you want to go (to the jogger's apartment) and the car will drive there automatically without further input. And, hopefully, by talking to the other cars would do so without accident. If you have to sit and think "turn left" it would probably end poorly. People's minds just wander too much.

      • They would have to implement some specific command sequence to actually commit the direction change. Rather than saying "turn left" and the car turning left, they would have to issue a preparatory command like, "polka-dot elephant, turn left", or something completely random that no one would just think on their own, at least not in combination with a direction. But you're right, our minds wander way too much. Even during the typing of this post I thought about my daughter coming home from CA, what to eat fo
        • by Anonymous Coward

          EEG mind control has existed for ages, and it doesn't work like that - it doesn't pick up verbalized thoughts, but rather general brain activity.

          It is the brain that learns how to control the machine, not the machine who learns how to read the mind. The brain picks up the correlation between lobe activity patterns and machine response, and conditions itself to skew activity patterns in order to make the machine turn/accelerate.

          In essence, not only it cannot receive complex orders, but it also produces a lit

          • Sorta like I move my arm without really knowing *how* I move my arm. I don't really have much conscious control over which muscles do what when I think, "Pick up sandwich and take a bite" (why yes, I am eat lunch at the moment), but some more primitive part of my brain translates that high level thought into a series of muscular movements that result in my eating a sandwich (good thing too, I was hungry). On the other hand when the higher level aspects of my brain think "Man that jogger is hot", it doesn'

            • Whoa whoa WHOA.

              Since when are women shiny?

              Have I really been inside too much lately?

              • They're aren't yet, but in the future when this technology is deployed everyone will be wearing shiny jumpsuits.

            • On the other hand when the higher level aspects of my brain think "Man that jogger is hot", it doesn't cause my arms to immediately turn the wheel towards her. The trick would be to tap into that part of my brain that causes muscles to move or things to happen, rather than that part which is constantly distracted by shiny objects.

              Yeah, if only we had a device that could detect brain impulses that move muscles, but not ones that merely shift one's gaze or thoughts. Imagine what you could do with a whole mat

          • Yes, but they'd have to do something more that just that or you wouldn't be able to actually move your arms (I know this is suggested as being for people without arms, but if you had no hands but still had arms it could be useful) without causing the car to steer. Having the car veer every time you tried to scratch an itch would be a problem, so it couldn't stay this general.

    • by Kenja ( 541830 )
      That'd be the least of my issues. My thoughts are FILTHY!
    • by M8e ( 1008767 )

      I'd hit that?

    • The engine gets over revved, you pop the clutch, and suddenly when airbags get in your face, lose your protective restraint, and backfire... all before sheepishly puttering away.

    • by tool462 ( 677306 )

      I assume it would honk the horn and whistle.

      "I er-uh couldn't be happier with how that went." -- Mayor Quimby

    • .. traffic jam on the beltline after 500 cars turned into the parking lot of the new strip club.
      Toyota claims it's drivers' fault.
    • by cvtan ( 752695 )
      That was the first thing I thought of: "Nice Porsche...Nice house... Pothole!...STOP sign...That girl looks like the one who used to sit next to me in biology class!..BOOM!... Nice airbag."
    • Maybe Sue Ellen Mischke.

  • still need brains (Score:5, Insightful)

    by minstrelmike ( 1602771 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:44PM (#35244610)
    Perfect. Now we just need drivers with brains.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:46PM (#35244650) Journal
    Family is in the car. Keep your breathing steady. Don't think about the red light district. Don't think about the red light district. For fuck's sake don't think about the red light district. Or that apartment on the other side of town. Don't think about it. Don't think about it. The mall, man, get a grip on yourself. Think about the mall. Just focus on the mall. *bead of sweat*...
  • by fridaynightsmoke ( 1589903 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:46PM (#35244656) Homepage
    I sit in a specially designed cradle, and biological actuators interface with an electromechanical control system, converting my neural signals into steering and acceleration commands. It was difficult to master at first; my thoughts about where the car should go didn't quite translate into reality, but after time and experience the interface becomes transparent. Nowadays on my regular commute I can even think about or sometimes do other (simple) things while driving (depending on road/traffic conditions). People often however disbelieve this...
    • ... Are you describing using your arms and legs to drive?

      • by nzap ( 1985014 )

        Thanks for explaining, I missed the joke at first.

        On a related topic, there already exist controllers that use brain impulses []. How is this situation special? I'm assuming it's already possible to make cars completely using digital logic inputs to replace mechanical functions, if you had a car like that, you could just hack a game controller into the car.

        Seems like old news.

        • I don't think any cars sold as of yet have fully drive-by-wire steering or brakes. I'm pretty sure by law in the States the brakes must be mechanically connected between pedal and caliper, but that wouldn't preclude electronic control. Hell, I don't think I'd get IN a car that didn't have a mechanical connection between steering and road wheels. And I don't think any exist, really.

    • Yep, it's silly how people always long for these "direct" interfaces, even though we already have them. It's mostly irrelevant the mechanism, as long as we can go from thought to information across the interface. Now, when we have high-bandwidth ones that dwarf our current ones, it'll be different.
  • Johnnycab: Please state the street and number.
    Douglas Quaid: Drive! drive!
    Johnnycab: I'm not familiar with that address. Would you please repeat the destination?
    Douglas Quaid: Anywhere just go! Go!
    Johnnycab: I'm not familiar with that address. Would you please repeat the destination?
    Douglas Quaid: Shit! shit!
    Johnnycab: Would you please repeat the destination?
    Douglas Quaid: Aaahhh!

  • by al0ha ( 1262684 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:53PM (#35244712) Journal
    modern studies are showing that overall, people's attention spans are decreasing and their minds are wandering. This fact combined with the fact that many people I encounter these days seem to have half a brain; yep, this sounds like a great idea!


    • I blame fast tech.

      Used to be the wench spent the whole day doing laundry by hand. By hand. That sucked, so we have washing machines now. That was a good thing.

      But then we invented microwaves and fast food, everyone gets dinner in 1 minute with 15 seconds of effort. Anything worthwhile is extraordinarily expensive because it's cheap and easy to stamp shitty knives from sheet steel and injection-mold everything else from plastic. Want something done well and you have to pay someone $200/hr to do it by

      • What's being wasted? Is it our time? no, we have more time to do what we like. Is it our effort? No, we can do more with less effort. Is it our money? No, our standard of living has risen significantly.

        What's being wasted? Should we all go back to eating grubs from under rocks and wearing fresh animal skins, sacrificing 3/4 of our population to do so? Is it a waste that an excellent craftsman can make $200 per hour? Is it a waste that the unskilled can't make much money? What if the same degree of skill wo
        • What's being wasted? Is it our time? no, we have more time to do what we like. Is it our effort? No, we can do more with less effort. Is it our money? No, our standard of living has risen significantly.

          Our standards of living have risen from high-quality hand-baked fresh bread being an 8 hour a day career for the baker, who sells the bread cheap enough for the peasants, to a niche career with overpriced artisan bread tucked away out of sight from the low-quality dough-extended mass market bread business.

          Our standards of living have gone from expensive fancy furnishings and cheap, affordable carpentry to mass-produced particle board and plastic tables and desks, and anything solid wood being up in the r

      • Actually, the really good whores are charging $300 an hour. Any other manual tasks cost far less.

    • by davidwr ( 791652 )


      Sorry, what were you saying again?

  • To tell the cab where to go. If I'm in a cab its because I'm not capable of driving at the moment.

  • Road rage is going to fuck this up. What happens when there is no barrier between thought and action?

    OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. No, I didn't RTFA.

    • my best guess is that uncontrolled lunatics would live in the open, while those few who can actually control them selves would live in asylum. it's a simple number and space problem

  • I read a story a ways back informing me that first armless man to drive a car modified for men without arms dies in a car crash... Does that make sense?
  • People would be better served by a properly designed and well funded public transit system.
    How would someone who is so profoundly handicapped that he cannot move a steering wheel be able to get himself in and out of the car anyway?

    • Great! Just find me cost-effective public transit system that works in Wyoming. Or Idaho. Or in any state, outside of the top 2 or 3 urban centers.

      Cars are NOT going away any time soon.

    • People would be better served by a properly designed and well funded public transit system.

      Sure, for those areas where public transit is possible.

      How would someone who is so profoundly handicapped that he cannot move a steering wheel be able to get himself in and out of the car anyway?

      You're thinking of a car designed for you, a person with (presumably) unrestricted mobility.

      A motorized wheelchair that could simply park itself into the front portion of the car and transfer control to the car when docked would solve this problem handily.

      I mean, it's not like we don't already have the beginnings of this today. I've seen a number of actual handicapped vehicles where the vehicle has a lift capable of raising a wheelchair on board, and t

    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      A mind-controlled wheelchair? How about one like what Hawking uses (mini-joystick)? They make wheelchair accessible vans which are well suited for this role.

  • The only way i can see this being good is if its faster than my reflexes. Can it shift before the signal gets from my mind to my arm to shift? Driving is more an instinct than a thought at least in my case. Especially in near crash situations i find that my body "just does" without me having to actually think about the movements.I fear this system will lead to handicapped/disabled drivers driving sluggishly, not being able to pull out of tight spots, and creating more handicapped/disabled drivers.
    • I hit some black ice this morning while slowing down to help a driver who had managed to get her car up on a tall snowbank (probably after hitting the exact same patch of ice). Several cars that went by also hit the same patch of black ice and a couple of them nearly hit my car as they went by.

      That and this technology makes me wonder. What if you could combine this type of interface, traction control, and a few decent sensors?

      I know what my thoughts were when the car stopped doing what I asked, and thanks

      • Personally i think ABS and TCS are horrible and promote lazy unskilled drivers. Your situation reminds me of norway i think it is. Where to get your drivers license you MUST know how to drift a car. The more drivers aids we have the more we condition ourselves to use them.
        • Lazy? Do you know how much time and effort it takes to learn how to do donuts in a vehicle so equipped? If I forget to turn off the TCS I have to work to get my rear wheel drive truck to do quality donuts.
  • So most cabs will be ending up at porn shops?

  • Wow. Another story about driver-less vehicles. Honestly, who believes such ridiculousness will ever exist? One glitch and there goes a sidewalk full of children. Come on... there are too many variables in the real world. This might be great technology for robotic limbs and video games but lets be realistic.
    • Who would have thought a computer would win Jeopardy 10 years ago? Who thought that computers could land airplanes 10 years ago? Both are insanely complex and precise systems. Never underestimate human ingenuity and especially progress on computerized systems. If there is a need, (and I would believe saving the lives of countless needless accidents would constitute as a need) eventually someone will fill it.
    • by Geminii ( 954348 )
      So it's great technology for controlling prosthetic limbs which could be controlling a car... but not the car directly?
  • I recently read a (very good) novel by Walter Tevis ("Mockingbird") which features telepathic buses called "thought buses". They'd listen to your brain stating a destination and drive there. In the novel, they originally also had the ability to "project" thoughts, but that was disabled due to "invasion of privacy".

    By the way, is it just me or is the moderation system down?

  • Johnny Cabs (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @01:09PM (#35244890)
    Can't we just have Johnny Cabs instead? Tell the robot where to go, and it'll take you there. It can even have the terrifyingly ugly rubber face on it, just to complete the package.
  • least 50% of America won't be able to use this car due to lack of brain power.
  • ... like a future driverless cab; just by thinking, passengers would tell the cab where to go.

    In latest news, a widespread outbreak of lice has been linked to new taxi cab caps...

  • Will the Toyota ones lock on drive and fail to read the brake though?

  • just by thinking, passengers would tell the cab where to go.

    I'm sorry, I'm not putting some nasty EEG cap in a cab on my head just to tell it where to go. Voice recognition for me!

    • So you also think that the greasy cab cap is not a good idea? I wonder how many drunks can vomit in it before it quits working.
  • I hope that to steer right you have to think with the right half of your brain, to steer left you have to think with the left, to go forward you have to use both, and the stop you have to shut it off entirely.

    Ok, its a right, a left, straight, then we're there. So just think:

    sin(*x)*cos(*x)*dx, u=(*x), du/dx=...

    Wouldn't it be cool if I had a pet dragon and we could make art together...

    Bigfoot reciting the digits in Pi...

    MTV! Jersey shore!

    And we're here.

  • by Quantus347 ( 1220456 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @01:22PM (#35245052)
    The Emotiv Epoch Headset ( was rigged to control a wheelchair a few years back with decent success. And as someone who has spent time training with said EEG headset for controls applications (software in my case, but the function is the same) its not as bad as you would at first think.

    The technology works on simple pattern recognition, and requires a good bit of training, both for the system and the user. A consumer is certainly not going to be able to drive one off the lot. It's not unlike a voice dictation software; the system needs to learn your particular patterns, and then uses simple "If A, then B" logic to trigger events. So you need to learn to have stable/repeatable patterns for reference.

    Well, thats when its trying to detect by pure thought patterns. A much more reliable method is to use the same EEG system to detect specific facial patterns for control (ie blink the left eye to turn left). The aforementioned Emotiv headset can do that right out of the box, with just a few minutes to calibrate thresholds. And since that doesn't have to deal with the interference caused by the different facial ticks, it can be a much more reliable system. Not to mention that its easier to train up a good poker face than it is to control you're whole mindset, especially when spring comes around and all the joggers and sunbathers come out of hiding.
  • I'm sorry I can let you drive to jiff lube how about the dealer?

    I'm sorry but mcdonalds is better then BK get out of hear now!

    HAL stop beeping at that hot chick. I can I know you like her.

  • takes on a whole new meaning. If my car acted out half the things I thought I wanted to do with my car, while driving, I would definitely be imprisoned.
  • That scares me just thinking about it...
  • The Byrds (or Dylan) would be bad.

    To Everything - turn, turn, turn, There is a Season - turn, turn, turn,

    Man, I'd be projectile vomiting before the end of the first verse.
  • Do you need to have the ATA gene to drive the car with your thoughts?

  • So what happens when someone with ADD drives it?
  • by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @01:55PM (#35245572)
    I really don't want a car that responds to my brain directly. One of the great things about current vehicles is that nodding off at the wheel doesn't mean certain doom when you start dreaming of flying. What about day-dreamers? There's a reason we have bodies, and I think it's because being able to move things with your mind would mean that on an off-day you'd accidentally turn your brain into a pretzel (which I'm fairly certain is an unsupported configuration).

    Inanimate objects are wonderfully forgiving.
  • ...or you could just tell the future driver-less cab where you want to go. Sort of how today you can tell a cab with a driver where you want to go.
  • Just this morning, I was thinking:

    "That guy just cut me off. I should totally sideswipe him and run him off the road... Nah, that would probably land me in jail."

    If this takes off, I'd be writing this from my free Internet connection in prison.

  • Or is it just another facial muscle recognition gizmo that forces you to squint and scrunch your forehead?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In order for the cab to get to the person with out a driver, it must already be autonomous... Why the hell would you then have the person put on a helmet and brain steer when the thing *got* there with out their help?

  • ... is it because I have dirty thoughts?
  • by RevWaldo ( 1186281 ) on Friday February 18, 2011 @02:33PM (#35246242)
  • After yesterday's story about an anti-laser, this seems to be an anti-GPS.

    Traditional GPS system: The computer is good at taking a start and end point, and finding the most efficient path from one to the other. But, it is poor at precise control actions (steering wheel, accelerator, etc), and poor at making quick decisions in dangerous situations. So, it relies on a human operator to do these tasks. Communication from the computer to the human is the most effective possible: a combination of audio and vi

    • Humans are weak at finding efficient paths? I'd argue just the opposite. We are naturally very good at picking accurate paths. Humans learn the traffic patterns, they know times of day, week and year to use an alternate route due to traffic patterns, holidays and special events. They know to pick an alternate because the radio just said the road was closed for emergency repairs, or due to an accident or weather. A Human learns the streets of his/her town and knows the short cuts off the main routes. I
  • I have one of these. It uses my hands to turn the steering wheel, which turns the joints which actuate the pump which transfers steering momentum to the wheels. As an additional bonus, it uses my feet almost completely independently to operate the pedal which pulls the cable which adjusts the throttle (and alternatively, the brakes).

  • You can't control your thoughts.

  • wtf. why don't i get to wear a helmet like that one?

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"