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May 2011: Brain-Powered Car

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 2011: Brain-Powered Car

After using an iPhone, an iPad, and an eye-tracking device, AutoNOMOS-Labs, a Berlin-based project, has found yet another way to maneuver its (usually completely) computer-controlled vehicle. “MadeInGermany,“ the autonomous car, now also relies on brain power.

The commercial Emotiv Epoc EEG (Electroencephalogram) headset requires a few rounds of mental training. “We thought if someone can use the headset to play a computer game – we can make it work with a car,” explained a scientist of Freie Universität Berlin. The wireless neuro-headset measures and interprets bioelectric signals as patterns. These patterns are then associated with different commands, e.g. left or right. A software interface communicates with the on-board Drive-by-Wire system of the car, transforming the messages into actuation, like steering or acceleration. Test drives have shown only a slight delay between mental command and vehicular execution.

The work of AutoNOMOS-Labs points to the huge potential human-machine interfaces offer in autonomous driving as well as applications for the physically handicapped. Integrating the driver’s mental decisions at certain points (e.g. at an intersection) could highly individualize routing in autonomous-car travel or control future electric wheelchairs. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the project is part of the German High-Tech Strategy’s ForMat program to examine intelligent forms of mobility and develop promising applications. For videos and more information, click here.