The ability to measure and interpret neurons firing in the brain has come a long way over the years, and it is possible to associate those patterns with specific activities. The devices that are typically used to perform these measurements, though, can be cumbersome and come with limitations.
The main way to measure these electrical patterns in a person’s brain is with a method called electroencephalography, or EEG. This technology requires the use of a headset dotted with electrodes that either press directly against a person’s scalp or come as close as possible.
Nissan is using EEG tech in its brain-to-vehicle solution, but it’s unclear how the company is tackling some of these problems. The video that accompanies Nissan’s press release shows a driver wearing a headset full of electrodes, which the company says has been designed so that it won’t be a distraction.
“As a result, our device is easy to wear, lightweight and features high-performance dry-sensors. We made the device wireless so the driver will hardly know it’s there when it’s worn,” a representative for Nissan says. He added that the device the company has been using for research needs to be “smaller and more stable” before it’s reliable enough for practical use.
Nissan has help in this quest to create a brain-assisted car. The company has been working on the project with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which helped create the Cybathalon.
It’s also collaborating with the National Institute of Scientific Research in Canada, and Bitbrain, a Spanish company focused on brain-computer interfaces.
Nissan is calling this an “exclusive” technology, but it’s not the first to explore the idea of bringing brain waves into the driving experience: Renault experimented with using EEG tech to control a car in 2016, Jaguar announced in 2015 that it was working on a way to measure a driver’s brain waves in order to make sure they were paying attention to the road, and researchers tested similar ideas as early as 2011.