Nissan is undertaking this pioneering work in collaboration with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland (EPFL).
Research on what’s being called the “Brain Machine Interface” (BMI) already allows disabled users to maneuver their wheelchairs by thought transference alone. The next stage is to adapt the BMI processes to the car--and driver--of the future.
Using brain activity measurement, eye movement patterns and by scanning the environment around the car in conjunction with the car's own sensors, it should be possible to predict what the driver plans to do--be it a turn, an overtake, a lane change--and then assist with the maneuver in complete safety.
The Nissan and EPFL collaboration is developing systems that go to the next stage using statistical analysis to predict a diver's intentions and to evaluate a driver's cognitive state relevant to the driving environment.
If all goes to plan, one day, our cars will be able to predict our next move. For example, imagine you see a left turn coming up and you want to take it. The car could then prepare itself for the maneuver, selecting the correct speed and road positioning, before completing the turn.
If this turns out to be too extreme, we could at least envisage a driver adjusting a radio station or volume of the stereo, accessing a paired smartphone or even locking the car or starting its engine all with the power of their mind.
Of course, the technology is in its very early stages so any production version would still be years away from launch.