After the Singularity You May Drive With a Brain Interface if Nissan Has Their Way
Nissan intends to debut some crazy technology at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week. It pairs the human brain of a driver with the brain of the car, and it’s an idea they plan to develop further.
While at first, it sounds like an unnecessary and cumbersome accessory, some kind of vaporware paraded around CES to create buzz for the Nissan brand, upon further investigation it seems a good idea.
Anyone who’s tried to wrest the keys from an impaired (intoxicated, aging, angry) driver intending to drive knows it would be easier to eat broth with a fork.
The concept is that a neural interface reads a driver’s intentions and needs, applying an action to the car’s controls before the driver’s own nervous system can react.
A car equipped with this sort of interface would allow the impassioned driver the ability to keep two hands on the wheel without endangering everyone else on the road. Think of it like brain assist.
This is the singularity you worried about yesterday.
Today is the Future
Like it or not, automation is coming. For many cars, it’s already here. The next generation of autonomous cars will be level four, meaning the operator can sleep en route. Your car is likely a level two vehicle. Level five cars will have no steering wheel.
The biggest danger, as is already the case, is the human drivers. Every time and I mean every dang time, an automated car is in an accident, it’s human error, either on the part of the driver or the other drivers.
It’s more than obvious that humans are the control for automobile accidents. Removing us is the best solution, but not everybody wants to give up the steering wheel. Not everybody can afford a level four car. Not everybody would buy one if they could.
As proof, engineers perfected automatic transitions decades ago, but car manufacturers still produce and sell manual transmission vehicles. Some of us humans are control freaks or control enthusiasts if you prefer.
Nissan believes they have a solution for this: neural network the human brain with the car’s brain.
Reading the Brain
Unlike the characters in The Matrix, humans don’t come with ports. To access the brain, Nissan has to rely on electroencephalography (EEG), a method where sensors resting close to the scalp can read brain activity.
They call their system Brain to Vehicle or B2V for short. We’ll see about that name.
We’re not even close to understanding the language of the human brain, but we don’t have to understand what the brain is saying to connect the dots between actions and intentions.
Once researchers can determine how the brain lights up in a certain way before, say, slamming the brakes and turning the wheel right, they can theoretically tell an EEG to look for that pattern.
The brain reading system could apply the brakes and turn the wheel ahead of the human’s feet and hands, locking out the controls from redundant inputs from the human.
Not only could the technology stay ahead of the driver’s own nervous system, it could apply said brakes and wheel turn with more accurate control, preventing a spin out or locked brakes scenario.
But Will Drivers Wear It?
Whether or not we’ll see drivers sporting embedded hairnets in the next decade comes down to a few factors. If it becomes illegal to drive one’s vehicle without assistance, then that will have an impact.
Also, the distance Nissan can travel with streamlining their design will matter.
“… Our device is easy to wear, lightweight and features high-performance dry-sensors,” said one company representative according to The Verge. “We made the device wireless so the driver will hardly know it’s there when it’s worn.”
Considering the current EEG technology requires the device sit as close to the scalp as possible, this could prove problematic for those with poofy hair.
But, throwing Nissan a bone, they also intend to develop the system to operate internal features of the car too. The B2V could know before the driver does when the climate controls are too frosty, when the music is too loud, and when the lumbar support needs a tweak.
The prospect of a car that adjusts the car’s accessories without a flinch from the driver might be justification-enough for a new hairdo. In other words, driver’s might want that technology enough to compromise.
Movement on this idea will come down to how user-friendly Nissan can make this interface. We’re fewer than five years from level five automated cars, but much further from a future where every car owner has one.
Your steering wheel is safely in your hands for the immediate future, as is your poofy ‘do.