Innovation

Nissan's plan for safer autonomous driving? Connect the car to a human brain

Instead of removing the driver, new Nissan technology builds off the human brain for safer, more comfortable driving.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Nissan is testing Brain-to-Vehicle technology to measure a driver's brain waves and have the car react accordingly.
  • The autonomous system can brake, steer, and accelerate around 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than a human.

Nissan wants to enhance the driving experience by augmenting the human brain with an autonomous reaction system, the Japanese automaker said in a research announcement Wednesday.

Instead of removing the human element completely, the driver's brain activity is measured and sent to the car using a headband, the announcement said. The car can then predict human actions such as braking or accelerating and begin the action more quickly, potentially leading to safer, less stressful driving.

The Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) technology shows a different approach to autonomous driving by allowing the human to maintain some control. By staying physically in the driver's seat, some consumers may feel more comfortable with it compared to self-driving vehicle technology.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of autonomous vehicles (Tech Pro Research)

"When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the machines," Nissan executive vice president Daniele Schillaci said in the announcement. "Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable."

The driver is still responsible for most of the driving, but the B2V technology can brake, steer, or accelerate the car around 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than a human, according to our sister site ZDNet. Any car-taken actions will be mostly unnoticeable to the driver, Nissan said.

Aside from potentially taking some of the stress out of driving, the technology can sense driver discomfort and work to remedy it for more enjoyable driving, the announcement said. This may mean adjusting the driving style or aspects of the car's interior.

SEE: Tech and the future of transportation (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

While the announcement focused on passenger vehicles, B2V technology could be helpful to boost safety in industries that use heavy machinery, including construction and manufacturing.

B2V technology is the newest development in the company's Nissan Intelligent Mobility effort and its race to produce self-driving vehicles. In 2013, and again in 2015, Nissan said it would have self-driving cars on the road by 2020. In late October 2017, the company was testing autonomous vehicles on public Japanese roads.

Nissan will demonstrate the technology at CES 2018, the announcement said.

Also see

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Image: Nissan

About Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth is an Education Reporter at Insider Louisville.

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