Many of us fancy ourselves better drivers than our vehicle allows us to be. Fortunately, Nissan has heard our thoughts, and is developing what it calls “Brainwave”. Brainwave is, in simple terms, assistive artificial intelligence. Most people are aware of the work happening in autonomous driving. Brainwave is not autonomous, rather, it tries to fill in the delay between the time that your brain thinks an action – such as applying the brakes – and the action occurring. By measuring the electric impulses in the brain, Brainwave can anticipate a driver’s action and begin that action sooner.
Think of it this way: you are driving down the highway and see brake lights ahead of you, so you know you need to begin slowing down. Your brain sends the electrical impulse to your leg to move from accelerator to brake but there is generally a half-second delay between the brain and the leg. With Brainwave, the program would read the signal in your brain and begin applying the brake immediately, saving a half-second in time.
A half-second may not seem like much but remember: at 60 miles per hour a car travels 88 feet per second. That half second may save you 44 feet or almost three car lengths. If you have ever been in an accident, you know that 44 feet sometimes is all you need to avoid the collision altogether.
However, Brainwave may be even farther away than autonomous driving – with the Washington Post estimating that it is at least 10 years away from production. That means that until the robots can drive us around, we will have to continue driving ourselves and being cautious, defensive drivers.
“Unfortunately, even cautious drivers get into accidents. As long as people have some measure of control over their vehicles, there will be automobile accidents. Technology like this is encouraging from a safety standpoint, but until we have completely automated driving, we must be ready to help our clients when accidents do happen.”