German scientists are revving up a system that harnesses mind power to brake cars.
The setup involves attaching electrodes to the scalp to measure a driver's brain patterns and detect the intent to brake in an emergency situation. Researchers from the Berlin Institute of Technology say test drivers were able to stop 130 milliseconds faster via thought control than via the regular old brake pedal response--and shave a distance the length of a small car off their stopping span when moving at about 62 miles per hour.
These time and distance differentials--detailed in the Institute of Physics' Journal of Neural Engineering last week--are sufficient enough to potentially help drivers avoid an accident, the researchers say. Their goal is to build an even faster, more efficient collision system than those already in place.
The team identified parts of the brain that are most active just before a driver slams the brakes (medically known as the "Oh my god, I think I'm about to crash" parts). They then tweaked the mind-reading device to respond to the brain activity by pressing the brakes. Volunteers tested the system using a driving simulator that had them maneuvering a virtual race car behind another virtual vehicle using a customized version of the open-source racing software TORCS. The setting included oncoming traffic, and the participants didn't have the chance to avoid a potential accident by switching to another lane. … Read more