Future Nissans will read your mind

Japanese car firm brings brain-reading tech to CES in Las vegas

We have become used, in recent years, to car makers using the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to show off their tech wares, Smartphone connections, digital dashboards, autonomous tech and more have turned CES into a de-facto car show, but this year Nissan is going to take things one step further and turn the CES into a fully-blown sci-fi event. With mind-reading technology.

While you would rightly be sceptical about the promises being made here, Nissan is serious in its Kubrickian quest to delve into the workings of our brains. The Japanese car giant has developed a system it calls Brain-to-Vehicle (or B2V) which uses a medical-style skull-cap, festooned with sensors, that monitor your brain wave activity.

How does that help? Well, according to Nissan, the system can learn, monitor, and recognise the patterns of neurons that fire and cause your bodily movements, and recognise when you’re about to send an instruction to your nervous system to move your hands or feet.

With that knowledge, the system can pre-instruct various driver assistance systems in the steering and powertrain to react more quickly when you do actually make your move. According to Nissan, the systems can react 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster with this brain-monitoring pre-knowledge, which doesn’t sound like much but can be a lifetime if the car is travelling at motorway speeds.


Beyond such safety effects, Nissan wants to use the tech to more closely integrate the driver with autonomous vehicle functions, re-connecting we humans with our cars once steering wheels and pedals have been done away with.

"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," said Nissan executive vice president Daniele Schillaci. "Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility, we are moving people to a better world by delivering more autonomy, more electrification and more connectivity."

By reading the brain waves, an autonomous car can, potentially, detect if a driver or passenger is feeling uncomfortable or unhappy, and adjust the its driving style, or interior settings, even using augmented reality displays to further improve the occupants’ mood.

"The potential applications of the technology are incredible," said Dr. Lucian Gheorghe, senior innovation researcher at the Nissan Research Center in Japan, who's leading the B2V research. "This research will be a catalyst for more Nissan innovation inside our vehicles in the years to come."

It may well be that we’ll have to wait until 2049 - if ever - to see such tech actually appear on cars one can buy. And that’s without even taking into account the legal and privacy questions that will need to be asked before we start letting our cars read our minds. Would you be happy with your Micra having this level of knowledge about you?

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring