China's first mind-controlled car has been developed by researchers in the north-east port city of Tianjin. Elly Park reports.
Zhang Zhao drives from the backseat - using nothing but his brain power. The Nanking University researcher co-designed a brain-reading device which allows him to drive forward, backwards, come to a stop, and lock and unlock the vehicle, without using his hands or feet. The device comprises 16 sensors that capture EEG signals from the driver's brain. A computer program selects the relevant signals and translates them, enabling control of the vehicle. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin) RESEARCHER ZHANG ZHAO, PHD STUDENT IN THE COLLEGE OF COMPUTER AND CONTROL ENGINEERING AT NANKAI UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "The tester's EEG signals are picked up by this equipment and transmitted wirelessly to the computer. The computer processes the signals to categorize and recognize people's intention, then translates them into control command to the car. The core of the whole flow is to process the EEG signals, which is done on the computer." The team says the system is also safe from absent-mindedness, as concentration is only needed to change the vehicle's moving status, such as changing lanes or turning. Zhang sums up the benefits. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) RESEARCHER ZHANG ZHAO, PHD STUDENT IN THE COLLEGE OF COMPUTER AND CONTROL ENGINEERING AT NANKAI UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "The first one is to provide a driving method without using hands or feet for the disabled who are unable to move freely; and secondly, to provide healthy people with a new and more intellectualized driving mode." At present the vehicle, made in collaboration with Chinese car manufacturer Great Wall Motor, can only drive in a straight direction. While there are no plans to go into production, Zhang hopes to continue his mind-bending research.