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A Mind-Controlled Vehicle

Amidst all the fervour for self-driving cars, Chinese researchers test a mind-driven car

The run-up to a futuristic scenario of self-driving cars has been one of the most prominent subjects in the industry for years now. And every year, new tests, products and services take us a little closer to this dream. In China, however, researchers have taken a different route, rethinking the concept of connected car and connecting driver and car, rather than car and car.

A research team at Nankai University, in North-eastern China, has been working on developing a mind-controlled vehicle for the past two years. The result is a working vehicle prototype that is controlled by a brain-reading system that has allowed a person to successfully drive a car forwards, backwards and come to a stop, as well as locking and unlocking the vehicle, completely hands-free.

The prototype is controlled via a computerised system that employs 16 sensors to capture the EEG (electroencephalogram) signals emitted by the driver’s brain and an interface that interprets and transforms these signals to control the car.

Professor Duan Feng, from the Nankai University College of Computer and Control Engineering, who managed the mind-controlled vehicle project, has emphasized how this technology is meant to help human beings. In fact, a future step could be to integrate this type of technology with that of self-driving cars to bring together all the benefits and security features inherent in the two systems.

Prof. Duan explained that inspiration for the project was provided by the desire to help disabled individuals who are unable to physically steer a car. This, in turn, lead to the idea that even healthy people could enjoy this type of technology. Moreover, the professor explained that worries about potential accidents caused by human distraction were unfounded, as concentration is only necessary to change the vehicle’s moving status (i.e. changing lanes, turning or stopping).

Nonetheless, drivers need not fret for the moment, as there are no plans to produce the vehicle that was developed in collaboration with Chinese car manufacturer Great Wall Motor.

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