The Future is Here: The Pulse-Tech Car Stopper

safe_stop1High-speed car chases could become a thing of the past, thanks to new technologies that are making unsafe driving a thing of the past. First, there was the joint project being developed by Emotiv and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia. Known as an “attention-powered car”, the driver of this vehicle wears a headset that measures their brainwaves and shuts down the engine in case of inattention.

And now, there’s a technology being developed by UK’s E2V which could shut down cars from the other end. That is to say, a technology aimed at detecting speeding cars and stopping them by electronically neutralizing their systems. It’s known as the RF Safe Stop, a system that uses electromagnetic pulses to confuse the systems of car and force its engine to stall.
Safe_StopAccording to the BBC, the technology has piqued the interest of the military and police:

In demonstrations seen by the BBC, a car drove towards the device at about 24km/h (15mph). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-Stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped, and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.

There are concerns about the technology’s effects on electronic braking and steering systems, but EV2 says the risks are low. Because RF Safe-Stop works on electronic systems, it can also be effective on boats. If adopted, the technology could find its way into road stops and traffic points, where it could be used to target people breaking the speed limit and force their cars into a shutdown until police arrive.

rf_safestopThere are drawbacks, of course. Older vehicles, which are less dependent on electronic systems, will be immune to the Safe Stop’s signals. In this respect, low-tech trumps high-tech due to a lack of complexity. However, given the sheer proliferation of modern vehicles, and their growing dependence on electronic systems (and engines), the Safe Stop technology is likely to be adopted all across the UK in the coming years.

Looking farther down the road, its not unlikely that advanced traffic systems and countermeasures will be featured on highways and waterways all over the world. In addition to being able to monitor traffic patterns, read license plates and registries, and tag those of offenders, it will also be able to deploy a targeted EM burst on vehicles that are identified by police as criminals or possible terrorists, and stop them in their tracks.

Batman_EMPgunAnd of course, a militarized version of the technology is a no-brainer, given the military’s long-standing love affair with EM technology. Imagine, if you will, vehicle-mounted electromagnetic weaponry that will be capable of taking out a column of enemy vehicles simply by neutralizing their systems. Or possibly a handheld device used by infantry (like Batman’s) to defend themselves against tanks and helicopters!

It’s important to dream big! And in the meantime, be sure to enjoy this BBC video short that demonstrates the technology in action:


Sources: fastcompany.com, e2v.com

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