Nissan aims to connect brains, cars

Nissan aims to connect brains, cars

Technology anticipates driver movement

Nissan's Brain-to-Vehicle technology interprets signals from the driver's brain to assist with driving and to help the vehicle's autonomous and manual systems learn from the driver. photos by SASIWIMON BOONRUANG
Nissan's Brain-to-Vehicle technology interprets signals from the driver's brain to assist with driving and to help the vehicle's autonomous and manual systems learn from the driver. photos by SASIWIMON BOONRUANG

The automotive industry is on the verge of a self-driving revolution. And while still in its infancy, Nissan Motors is changing the conversation with brain-to-vehicle (B2V) technology.

B2V is the latest development in Nissan Mobility's mission to move people towards intelligent driving, power and integration through autonomous driving, electric vehicles and exciting driving experiences, said Nissan executive vice-president Daniele Schillaci.

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

The technology is the result of research into using brain-decoding technology to predict a driver's actions and detect discomfort. By catching signs that the driver's brain is about to initiate a movement such as turning the steering wheel or pushing the accelerator pedal, driver-assist technologies can begin the action more quickly. This can improve reaction times and enhance manual driving. By detecting and evaluating driver discomfort, artificial intelligence can change the driving configuration or driving style when in autonomous mode.

Lucian Gheorghe, a senior innovation researcher at Nissan Research Centre in Japan who is leading the B2V research, said other possible uses include adjusting the vehicle's internal environment. For example, the technology can use augmented reality to adjust what the driver sees and create a more relaxing environment.

"This technology is not mind-reading technology. It is reading signatures of brain activity that correlate with movements," said Mr Gheorghe.

Nissan demonstrated a simulation of its B2V technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. A driver wears a device that measures brain wave activity, which is then analysed by autonomous systems. By anticipating intended movement, the systems can take actions, such as turning the steering wheel or slowing the car, 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than the driver, while remaining largely imperceptible.

The autonomous car can also be driven manually. The system is an experiment to understand the best way to automate interactions between the driver and the car.

"A lot of signals we are gathering and interpreting through driving can be screened for further development. Through this system, we can really explore and try to anticipate the sensations that the driver would like to feel inside the car and when driving," he said.

The most useful feature, said Mr Schillaci, is gathering real-time information for the car to be able to anticipate drivers' intentions, monitoring brain signals as they are being sent out.

"B2V technology is in the early stages, as now Nissan is working with partners. This technology is meant to really give customers a better and smoother experience in the future," he said.

Based on a Nissan survey, Mr Schillaci said customers feel autonomous cars will one day be extremely useful, but they want the option to take control of the car. Nissan is a pioneer in navigation, launching the partially automated ProPilot system in Japan and ProPilot Assist in the US.

"Everything we do, we want customers to be able to take control of the car. This system helps you to anticipate and make the correct turns when you take control of the car."

According to Nissan, B2V technology could be the future of Nissan vehicles, possibly operating in the IMx concept car that was exhibited at Consumer Electronics Show 2018. The IMx is an all-electric crossover concept vehicle offering fully autonomous operations.

Autonomous vehicles are predicted to transform road conditions by relieving traffic congestion and lowering traffic fatalities. Over the coming decades, there will be a shift towards fully autonomous vehicles.

The Ruderman Family Foundation reports self-driving vehicles could save US$1.3 trillion (41.5 trillion baht) from productivity gains, reduced fuel costs and accident prevention.

According to Deloitte Center for Industry Insights, which is the research division of Deloitte LLP's Consumer and Industrial Products practice, auto firms are investing in product development and engineering teams to build autonomous, self-updating and connected cars, and building data lakes to analyse and monetise these new "mobility devices". The ultimate winners, however, will be those that also truly connect with the customers, it said.

Safety, brand trust, and cost are all major factors determining consumer acceptance of electrified and autonomous vehicle technology, especially self-driving vehicles. Younger consumers in several global markets seem more likely to embrace autonomous technology.

Lucian Gheorghe says brain-to-vehicle is not mind-reading technology.

The IMx crossover concept vehicle offers fully autonomous operation.

Do you like the content of this article?