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Let the brain take the strain

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Let the brain take the strain
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Driving down the road and all of a sudden, a pedestrian appears. If your foot does not react as quickly as your brain there is going to be an accident.

Scientists are working on technology so the car can read a driver’s mind.

It is not science-fiction.

Researchers at the Berlin Institute of Technology in Germany are experimenting with drivers in a simulator.

They all wore a cap wired with electrical sensors. Scientists say they can identify brain waves that match a driver’s wish to press the brake pedal.

It was no surprise that the brain signals were sent before the leg started moving; but what did come as a surprise was the strength and the regularity of the impulses.

Researcher Stefan Haufe from the Institute explained: “We know that all actions are planned in the brain, including emergency braking. But we were surprised that the signals were so specific and so clear that you can forecast them before they actually take place.”

The brain signals the need to brake, on average, around 13 hundredths of a second faster than the foot responds.

At 100kmh that could mean pulling up 3.6 metres shorter – possibly the difference between a close shave and serious injury.

But at the moment there are still some problems to overcome: it takes a long time to fit the electrodes and what’s more, a driver’s brain sometimes starts emergency braking but may then change plan if the situation changes. The research is continuing.