The Future is Here: The “Attention Powered” Car

attention_powered_CarDriver inattention, tunnel vision, and distraction are all major causes of road accidents. And while the law has certainly attempted to remedy this situation by imposing penalties against driving while on the phone, or driving and texting, the problem remains a statistically relevant one. Luckily, Emotiv and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia have joined forces to come up with a brilliant – albeit slightly unusual – solution.

It’s known as the “Attention Powered Car”, an automobile that features a neuroheadset made by Emotiv, creator of a range of electroencephalography-based monitoring gear. Basically, the driver straps on the headset while driving and  then interfaces with custom software to read the driver’s brainwaves. Any lapses in concentration are read by the headset and cause the vehicle to slow down to about 14 km/h (9 mph) as a way of alerting the driver.

emotiv_epocIn fact, the car – a Hyundai i40 – will only run at full capacity when it senses that drivers are giving their full attention to the task at hand. According to Pat Walker, RAC executive general manager:

The impact of inattention is now comparable to the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by speed and drink driving, which are all contributors to Western Australia consistently having the worst fatality rate of any Australian state. Nationally, it is estimated inattention was a factor in 46 percent of fatal crashes.

The prototype design is largely meant to bring attention to the issue of driver distraction, and also serve as a tool for investigating the problem further. Researchers have been using the car (on a track) to test how various tasks, such as switching radio stations or sending a text message, impact a driver’s attention. Factors measured include blink rate and duration, eye movement, and head tilts.

googlecarAnd while novel and pure science fiction gold, the concept is also quite due. Given the improvements made in EEG headsets in recent years, as well as computerized vehicles, it was really just a matter of time before someone realized the potential for combining the technologies to create a safer drive that still relied on a human operator.

While robot cars may be just around the corner, I imagine most people would prefer to still be in control of their vehicle. Allowing for a neuroband-operated vehicle may be just the thing to marry increased safety while avoiding the specter of a future dystopian cliche where robots handle our every need.

RAC WA has also produced a number of videos about the Attention Powered Car, including the one below. To check out others, simply click on this link and prepare to be impressed.


Sources: news.cnet.com, staging.forthebetter.com.au

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