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Scientists Steer Car with the Power of Thought

18 February 2011 Freie Universitaet Berlin

Computer Scientists at Freie Universität Couple Brain Waves with Driving Technology - Testing at Former Tempelhof Airport

You need to keep your thoughts from wandering, if you drive using the new technology from the AutoNOMOS innovation labs of Freie Universität Berlin. The computer scientists have developed a system making it possible to steer a car with your thoughts. Using new commercially available sensors to measure brain waves - sensors for recording electroencephalograms (EEG) - the scientists were able to distinguish the bioelectrical wave patterns for control commands such as "left," "right," "accelerate" or "brake" in a test subject. They then succeeded in developing an interface to connect the sensors to their otherwise purely computer-controlled vehicle, so that it can now be "controlled" via thoughts. Driving by thought control was tested on the site of the former Tempelhof Airport.

The scientists from Freie Universität first used the sensors for measuring brain waves in such a way that a person can move a virtual cube in different directions with the power of his or her thoughts. The test subject thinks of four situations that are associated with driving, for example, "turn left" or "accelerate." In this way the person trained the computer to interpret bioelectrical wave patterns emitted from his or her brain and to link them to a command that could later be used to control the car. The computer scientists connected the measuring device with the steering, accelerator, and brakes of a computer-controlled vehicle, which made it possible for the subject to influence the movement of the car just using his or her thoughts.

"In our test runs, a driver equipped with EEG sensors was able to control the car with no problem - there was only a slight delay between the envisaged commands and the response of the car," said Prof. Raúl Rojas, who heads the AutoNOMOS project at Freie Universität Berlin. In a second test version, the car drove largely automatically, but via the EEG sensors the driver was able to determine the direction at intersections.

The AutoNOMOS Project at Freie Universität Berlin is studying the technology for the autonomous vehicles of the future. With the EEG experiments they investigate hybrid control approaches, i.e., those in which people work with machines.

The computer scientists have made a short film about their research, which is available at:

http://tinyurl.com/BrainDriver

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