Western Australia’s Royal Automobile Club (RAC) has teamed up with Emotiv to develop an Attention Powered Car for improved road safety. The high-tech automobile has a built-in neurofeedback driver attention system which monitors the driver’s brain activity and feeds the info into an algorithm that determines whether you’re paying attention or not. Whenever the driver is monitored to be undergoing a period of distraction, the system takes control over the car’s acceleration and speed, and slows down the vehicle.
Over the last decade, driver inattentiveness has grown to become one of the biggest road safety issues and several “braincar” researches have launched to address the problem.
“Inattention is one of the major killers on our roads – it’s responsible for as many road deaths as drink driving and speeding combined. We were keen to see if we could have a better understanding of the problem, and the customised software allows us to do that.” said RAC general manager, Pat Walker.
The customised Hyundai i40 is equipped with an Emotiv EPOC headset that gauges the attention of the driver using a number of sensors. From measure electric signals from the brain to judging head motion, eye movement and eyelid blinks, the headset communicates this information to the car’s engine, which slows down if fatigue or distraction is detected.
“We can’t read thoughts, but we can figure out to a fair approximation what’s going on in the brain, in general terms,” said Dr Geoffrey Mackellar, chief technical officer at Emotiv. “We can generally detect if someone is alert, if they’re hearing things, whether they’re speaking, just from activity in different parts of the brain. We wanted to look for specific attention related to driving, and we can detect that with quite good accuracy”, Mackellar said.
The attention-powered car has been tested and fine-tuned under controlled conditions at the RAC Driving Centre in Perth and is now embarking on a road trip to allow the public to get behind the wheel to experience the technology for themselves. On 29 October 2013 the Attention Powered Car will be hitting the road to get a handful of lucky Australian drivers behind the wheel and start learning more about the problem of inattention.