Nissan Is Building a Car That You Drive With Your Thoughts
As any student driver will tell you, reaction times while driving can be a bit of a pain. From the time when a driver sees a hazard on the road to the moment their brain has processed it, precious seconds slip by.
There's then another delay as the body follow the brain's command to stamp on the brake pedal, or swerve out of the way of the deer that's galloped merrily into the middle of the freeway. It doesn't always work out.
Nissan is working on a way of reducing this delay by removing that middle step of the whole process, where the brain sends signals to the body which stamps on the brakes to avert a crisis. The solution: remove the barrier between the driver and the car, by enabling the car to read the driver's mind. It's being called "brain-to-vehicle" technology.
At this year's CES, Nissan plans to show off an awkward-looking but impressively effective brain cap that allows a car to take commands straight from the driver's brain. This general mind-reading technology has been in development for years, and it's really getting somewhere, allowing for all kinds of communication between humans and computers that don't involve any embarrassing insertion of USB cables into compromising places.
The same technology can be used to create prosthetic limbs for amputees that respond to the user's thoughts, to allow the disabled to play musical instruments, and it can also be useful for anyone who might simply want to become Doctor Octopus.
According to Nissan's senior innovation researcher, Lucian Gheorghe, who said the following in a press release:
Thus far, this technology is only being used to supplement traditional methods of driving a car, but the hope is that eventually, drivers will be able to control their cars completely using nothing but the power of thought. This, then, would allow amputees and the disabled to be able to drive in a way that is currently impossible.
This is all well and good, but it does feel a little like the wrong place for Nissan to be putting their research at this particular moment in time.
Why allow for drivers to control cars with their minds, when most other automotive companies are focusing on making cars that drive themselves? As the world continues to move towards autonomous self-driving cars that simply ferry passengers around, it feels a little archaic to be focusing on making cars more, rather than less, subservient to the imperfect, fallible instructions of a human driver.
Even Nissan itself is working to create self-driving cars, so their decision to also invest in mind-reading cars suggests that the company has larger expectations of this technology.
Perhaps the expectation from Nissan is that self-driving cars won't be universally adopted any time in the near future - people will still want to drive for leisure, and as such, it will help if this hobby is more inclusive to those who might not be able to drive without assistance.
Whatever the reason, developments in this tech will hopefully help us towards a scenario where humans can control all kinds of other things with our minds. Hopefully, this will include the ability to make the TV remote levitate into our hands while we're sitting on the couch. Truly, this is the greatest possible use of the emerging technology that allows people to command machines with their mind.