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The Japanese carmaker Nissan announced a collaboration with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland (EPFL) on a car that could predict its driver’s intentions. By scanning the thought patterns of the driver, future Nissans will be able to predict the driver’s next move. For example, as the driver thinks about turning left ahead, the car will prepare itself for the manoeuvre, selecting the correct speed and road positioning, before completing the turn.

This is not as futuristic as it might sound. As we have reported before, mind-reading cars in the future could brake 130 milliseconds before the driver’s move. With this latest announcement Nissan is actually joining two other car manufacturer giants, who have already announced their own researches in the BCI field.  Ferrari is equipping its cars with biometric sensors, while Asimo’s father Honda is making a “driving hat” that allows motorists to control tasks by thought alone. Representatives at Honda also claim to replace the steering wheel within 10 years!

Cornening Nissan’s conception, the human driver will remain the one that maintains the vehicle’s control. However, using brain activity measurement and eye movement patterns, and scanning the environment around the car in conjunction with the car’s own sensors, it should be possible to predict what the driver plans to do. Thus, the future Nissans will read the driver’s thoughts in order to prepare itself for the next maneuver. For example, when the driver will prepare to turn right, an overtake or a lane change, the car will adopt the speed and position necessary to perform this action, and assist with the manoeuvre in complete safety.

EPFL’s project leader Professor José del R. Millán (who is also known for his BCI multitasking researches) said: “The idea is to blend driver and vehicle intelligence together in such a way that eliminates conflicts between them, leading to a safer motoring environment.”

The day when we all drive our cars by thoughts only like the German AutoNOMOS team might be far away, but at least it’s reassuring to know that Jewish rabbis allowed driving thought-controlled cars on the Sabbath. :)