Thought-controlled car is mind boggling idea

For some time now has been posting stories about the many advanced technologies that are popping up in automobiles these days. 

With Brian Jackson’s and our videographer Tyson Dover’s recent coverage of this year’s Canadian International Auto Show, we’re sure to provide you with more news about tech on wheels in the next few days. 

Nestor Arellano

Some of the tech being proposed for cars today like the ones we see on the futuristic Ford 2011 Explorer might serve a practical or even critical use but I think some of it sounds just a bit wacked.

 Take for example the so-called “thought controlled” car developed in a lab in Berlin.

 If there ever was a contest for the best rolling coffin, this vehicle would probably take the prize.

According to Science Daily, scientists at the AutoNOMOS innovation labs at Freie Universität Berlin initially asked test subject to manipulate a virtual cube in “space” to represent the act of driving a car. Bioelectrical information about how each subject’s brainwaves reacted to the action of “driving” was collected and then fed into a computer-controlled vehicle. This provided the basis for allowing the vehicle’s pedals and steering wheels to be controlled by the subject’s thoughts.

The Science Daily reported that driving tests done in an abandoned airport runway went very well although there was a bit of a delay between the driver’s thinking about an action and the car responding to the message.

Call me old school, but even if scientists manage to close that gap I still think a thought-controlled car is a dangerous idea. 

There’s a reason why Luke Skywalker even with his Jedi training still uses manual control when piloting his x-wing fighter. People’s minds, even at peak performance, are a jumble of images, concepts, thoughts and emotions. There’s just too much going in there already that driving the “traditional way”- with the aid of our limbs and other senses – is real stress inducer as it is. 

If we were to outsource to our brains the functions normally handled by our hands or feet during driving can you imagine the sort of chaos that would ensue on the roads? 

For example, I’m driving with Tyson to work just as we do everyday. Then he goes: “Hey Nestor, check out that tricked out Bimmer on the right”. My mind goes “cool – Bimmer – right”. Car goes crash.

Every time we go out in the road drivers are bombarded by loads of distractions: the car radio, cell phones, oncoming traffic, roadside billboards, pending assignments we have at the office, the breakfast we ate or didn’t eat. If we had to drive solely with the power of our minds, think about the massive headache we’d all have when we finally get to our destination. Hmmm, is this experiment being funded by Aspirin? 

However, I think a thought-controlled car or the system it is based upon would be useful as an assistive device to aid individuals who do not have normal use of their limbs to run vehicles, mobility scooter or wheelchairs. In think in this ocntext such a technology would be more useful and readily applicable.

The cars we have on the road today, the manner we are trained to drive them, the roads and the rules of road we have were all developed over a long period of time to somehow work together. If a thought-controlled car were to move from concept to production, alterations to the other factors above would need to be made. 

For now, a thought-controlled car might be possible but that doesn’t mean it has to be on the road. 

Nestor is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter, read his blogs on Blogs and join the Facebook Page

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