Thought-controlled car demonstrated
Since its formation in 2006, Freie Universität Berlin’s AutoNOMOS team has been researching and developing systems that could someday result in driverless, autonomous cars. Previously, they have successfully used an iPhone, an iPad, and an eye-tracking device to maneuver their Volkswagen Passat MadeInGermany test car. Now, using a commercially-available Emotiv EPOC brain-machine gaming interface, they have demonstrated that the car can be controlled by mind power.
AutoNOMOS’ system, known as BrainDriver, acquires bioelectric signals from the driver via 16 EEG sensors on the EPOC neuroheadset. Before slipping behind the wheel, drivers first need to spend some time on the system’s software tool kit, where they learn to move a cube back and forth on a computer screen by altering their thought patterns. Once on the road, BrainDriver links these patterns with assigned actuations (such as steering and acceleration), and sends the appropriate commands to the car’s drive-by-wire system.
In the first test of the technology, the car drove itself autonomously to an intersection, at which point its human occupant used their thought patterns to tell it which way to turn. In the second test, carried out at Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport, the occupant continuously controlled steering, acceleration and braking. There was said to be “only a slight delay” between their mental commands and the subsequent reactions of the car.
The system is currently only a demonstration project. Team members, however, believe that it could have definite applications in the future, such as for allowing passengers to assist autonomous cars when the vehicles are unsure of which road to take at an intersection.
Via IEEE Spectrum