Mind-reading technology is being developed by Jaguar Land Rover that would monitor the driver’s alertness, stress levels and the risk of falling asleep.
The innovative technology, developed as part of Jaguar Land Rover’s Sixth Sense research project, would read brain waves not by electrodes directly on the driver’s head but from his or her hands through sensors embedded into the steering wheel.
Nasa is already using such systems to develop pilot’s concentration skills.
The technology works by constantly monitoring brainwaves generated by the human brain. There are more than four types of waves constantly present in the brain activity that can be distinguished based on their frequencies. By assessing which of these brainwaves is dominant, the system would be able assess the level of the driver’s concentration, whether they are sleepy, distracted or starting to daydream.
As fatigue is according to some estimates responsible for up to 20 per cent of car accidents, the technology could considerably improve road safety.
Because the brain signal received through the hands is obviously weaker than the one received directly from the head, special software is needed to amplify the brain signal and filter out any background noise.
Jaguar Land Rover is currently conducting user trials to collect more information on the different brainwaves identified through the steering wheel sensors and will involve leading neuroscientists in the project to verify the results.
Moreover, an intelligent car of the future could be equipped with a health monitoring seat assessing the driver’s heart rate and breathing.
The technology, originally developed for use in hospitals, would not only promptly detect the onset of a serious medical condition but could also trigger an action to, for example, reduce the driver’s stress levels by adjusting audio settings or climate control.
To improve road safety even further, Jaguar Land Rover's UK based research team is also looking at innovations that would reduce the amount of time the driver’s eyes are off the road whilst driving,
The firm envisions an infotainment system that could react intuitively to the driver's movements, predicting his or her intentions before their fingers touch the control panel. Such a system would reduce the amount of time needed to perform an action. Again, the equation is simple – the less time the driver’s eyes are off the road, the safer the situation.
The system would use a tracking camera monitoring the driver’s hand movements in order to predict their actions.
In user trials, the system increased the speed of button selection by 22 per cent.
The system would use haptic feedback to reassure the driver the intended action has been performed successfully. The technology, also known as mid-air touch, uses ultrasonic impulses and doesn’t require the person to touch any surface in order to receive the impulse.
Similar haptic feedback could be provided through the accelerator pedal to, for example, alert the driver that the car is travelling above the speed limit or that there is a car dangerously close in front.