Australian road safety experts have created the world’s first 'attention-powered car' in an attempt to combat fatalities and injuries caused by driver distraction and fatigue.
The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) Western Australia – in collaboration with neuroengineering company Emotiv, production company Finch, and with the support of Hyundai Australia – this week unveiled a headset that directly links the driver’s brain function to the vehicle’s engine.
Emotiv’s neuro-headset uses 14 sensors that detect electrical activity in the brain, which reveals whether a driver is paying attention or zoning out, and also maps sleep patterns, eye movements and blink rates to track fatigue and gain insights into the driver’s emotional state. A gyroscope also measures if the driver turns their head away from the road.
All of this information is analysed by a computer that then outputs commands to the purpose-built Hyundai i40 to essentially allow it to drive normally when you’re paying attention and slow it down when you lose concentration. If the vehicle comes to a complete stop due to driver inattention, it will not become operational again until they return to a safe level of attentiveness.
RAC advocacy and member benefits executive general manager Pat Walker said the team behind the project hoped to learn more about the way the mind thinks and reacts in a vehicle.
“In terms of road deaths in Western Australia distraction accounts for about 30 per cent,” Walker said.
“Most people don’t appreciate that, they tend to think it’s all about speeding and drink driving. We lose about 200 people per year, we have about 2000 serious injuries. We don’t want to lose any Western Australians.
The attention-powered car has been tested and fine-tuned under controlled conditions at the RAC Driving Centre in Perth and is now embarking on a road trip to allow the public to get behind the wheel to experience the technology for themselves.