Researchers Have Developed A Thought-Powered Car


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

147 Researchers Have Developed A Thought-Powered Car
Hopefully the drivers won't get distracted by any other thoughts mid-journey. Nankai University

If trusting your commute to a self-driving car seems a little too hands-off for you, you may not like the new car developed by a research team at Nankai University. By wearing equipment that reads electrical signals given off by the driver’s brain, they are apparently able to move the vehicle using only the power of thought, as reported by the Washington Post.

After just two years of development, the group of Chinese scientists claims that its headset device allows the driver to move the car around, brake, and lock and unlock the doors, all without moving a limb. Although mind-reading technology isn’t actually new, this is the first time it has been put to use driving a car.




The headset consists of 16 sensors that capture electroencephalogram (EEG) signals, the kind generated automatically by the brain. When a thought is generated, billions of neurons within the brain “fire,” sending electrochemical signals to each other through synaptic connections. Electrically excited particles (ions) that are exchanged between the neurons move in waves throughout the brain. Eventually, some of these ions will reach the scalp, wherein they will push against the headset’s electrodes.

The research team has managed to ascertain what type of brain activity correlates to what type of movement instruction. “The tester’s EEG signals are picked up by this equipment and transmitted wirelessly to the computer,” Zhang Zhao, a project member, told the Washington Post. “The computer processes the signals to categorize and recognize people’s intention, then translates them into control command to the car.”


If at this point you may be entertaining the notion that devastating traffic accidents could be caused by distracted, daydreaming drivers, fret not: the research team claim that the driver would only need to concentrate when doing something like turning, or changing lanes. In fact, the mind-controlled car at present can only drive forwards or backwards – it can’t turn at all. So if you’re planning on driving in a straight line for your entire journey, this is the car for you.

Although somewhat flawed, then, the project does have noble intentions: It was designed with disabled people, particularly paraplegics, in mind. The project is led by Duan Feng, an associate professor in the university’s College of Computer and Control Engineering; he claims that this type of mind-reading architecture could eventually be combined with the technology behind the self-driving car pioneered by Google.

At present, however, there are no plans to mass produce this intriguing collaboration between the university and the Great Wall Motor car company.


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