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Car Makers Explore EEG Headrests

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the combine-with-electroshock-and-we've-got-a-winner dept.

Transportation 77

mrtr writes "A number of car makers are looking at whether EEG devices built into headrests could prevent accidents by sensing when a driver is in danger of drifting off. The technology comes from Neurosky, which already makes commercial EEG units for use in gaming and market research. Other approaches, such as using cameras to spot drooping eyelids, have proven too unreliable so far. From the story: 'Fatigue causes more than 100,000 crashes and 40,000 injuries, and around 1,550 deaths, per year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some studies suggest drowsiness is involved in 20 to 25 percent of all crashes on monotonous stretches of road.'"

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So make the road less monotonous (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148068)

Nice winding roads and an unlimited speed limit would get rid of much of that monotony.

c is the limit (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148112)

Sorry, an unlimited speed limit is not possible. You can't exceed the speed of light.

Re:c is the limit (1, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148150)

At least let me try!

Re:c is the limit (0)

stms (1132653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148158)

That's just some bureaucratic bullshit they made up.

Re:c is the limit (1)

Intropy (2009018) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148162)

And it takes almost a year to get up to that speed.

Journey time (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148652)

Sorry, an unlimited speed limit is not possible. You can't exceed the speed of light.

However you can make the journey time as arbitrarily as short as you want which, in the end, is really what you care about.

Re:c is the limit (0)

hierophanta (1345511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148762)

prove it

Re:c is the limit (0)

2fuf (993808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149932)

Besides being an oxymoron, the speed of light nor anything else will stop one from proclaiming an "unlimited speed limit". If you have a car that goes anywhere near the speed of light, let me know, I might have a buyer.

Re:c is the limit (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37152902)

Sorry, an unlimited speed limit is not possible. You can't exceed the speed of light.

But you could always go faster than you're going, there's no limit to that. You can always have arbitrarily high acceleration, assuming your car isn't so wimpy as to be limited by running out of fuel, or loss of structural integrity due to air resistance and friction, or having insufficient power to accelerate arbitrarily fast.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148144)

Nice winding roads and an unlimited speed limit would get rid of much of that monotony.

That is a very good idea. Not, of course, for reducing car crashes, but for accelerating the process of natural selection.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (2)

citizenr (871508) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148386)

Nice winding roads and an unlimited speed limit would get rid of much of that monotony.

That is a very good idea. Not, of course, for reducing car crashes, but for accelerating the process of natural selection.

German autobahns disagree with you.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (2)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148518)

I believe a good portion of the Autobahn now has a speed limit. I was rather surprised in the area around Stuttgart in January this year.

Previously, I had been practically run off the road at 210 kph (left lane) while the right was moving at 100. Obviously, any sort of car problem (tire, suspension, etc.) would have been fatal with no place to go.

I found some unmarked areas around Stuttgart but the "default" seemed to be 100kph rather than unlimited. Very few places left without speed limits, at least in that area.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

luxifr (1194789) | more than 3 years ago | (#37176066)

I believe a good portion of the Autobahn now has a speed limit. I was rather surprised in the area around Stuttgart in January this year.

Doesn't apply in general. There are plenty of Autobahns that do not impose speed limits. Also I found that most of the time when there is a speed limit on an Autobahn it actually makes sense for some reason! Contrary to that have a look at the A9 between, say, Bayreuth and the intersection to the A72. There's no speed limit most of the times. But there are 3 lanes for each direction (plus emergency lane) and the road is in good shape.

but the "default" seemed to be 100kph rather than unlimited

The "default" (i.e. recommended speed) on an Autobahn and a Bundesstraße, which is made like an Autobahn, is 130kp/h. Also if there's anything wrong at 100kp/h and you don't react right the result is almost the same as with 200kp/h.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37149904)

Germans drive cars. Decently-made cars.

Americans drive SUVs and pickup trucks, prone to rolling and mechanical failure.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (2)

PopeScott (1343031) | more than 3 years ago | (#37150230)

The Autobahn is actually maintained, unlike 99% of the roads in America.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (2)

GNious (953874) | more than 3 years ago | (#37151414)

Nice winding roads and an unlimited speed limit would get rid of much of that monotony.

That is a very good idea. Not, of course, for reducing car crashes, but for accelerating the process of natural selection.

German autobahns disagree with you.

ALL of the Autobahn is limited to 130 kph - on SOME of it, you are allowed to exceed this, with the observation that you are absolutely guilty of any incident, if going faster than 130 (80.7 antiquated units per hour).

The rules relating to the layout and quality of the Autobahn are also more strict that anywhere, so before you apply observations about the Autobahn to any other stretch of road, first apply the rules.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37151590)

I'd love it if we could get our speed limits up to 80MPH on the freeways here in California, and a minimum speed limit law for the fast lane.

I spent 3 hours on the road today, about half of it stuck behind a truck and an old guy, both doing 60MPH.

Honestly, experienced drivers know what the safe speed for a road is, and generally drive it - speed limits be damned.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#37151984)

I spent 3 hours on the road today, about half of it stuck behind a truck and an old guy, both doing 60MPH

Wait... the old guy was next to the truck for an hour and a half? That's illegal in most states. And most states do have minimum speeds on the interstates.

If you were on a two lane road, sixty is fast enough. There are people getting on and off, passing, etc. 80 on a 2 lane road is suicidal insanity, or stupid ignorance.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 3 years ago | (#37152110)

Honestly, experienced drivers know what the safe speed for a road is, and generally drive it - speed limits be damned.

I do not agree with that assessment, simply based on pure experience, but assuming it holds true: Issue is not the experienced drivers - it is usually the in-experienced drivers, especially those who consider themselves competent drivers. They will not know when it is safe to go fast, and are too likely to go too fast.
Now, if auto-accidents were 100% solo-accidents, I'd be OK with this (see strange post above about natural selection), but since they will inflict damage on others, as society, we have to set limits that everybody can handle.

Thats not to say that the old geezer in your example shouldn't have pulled in and cleared the road for you to pass the truck, if there was nothing in front of him...

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154700)

On a four or five line interstate, every single lane will be going 75MPH in Southern California. The DoT uses the guideline that 10% of drivers are crazy idiots, and set the speed limits on surface streets to the 90th percentile.

Except on Freeways, where they arbitrarily set much lower speed limits.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37152962)

Honestly, experienced drivers know what the safe speed for a road is, and generally drive it - speed limits be damned.

Of course, the problem with that is, a driver themself isn't able to judge if they're experienced enough... Total kilometers driven is only a guideline, some drivers will never be experienced enough no matter how many kilometers they've driven. Applies also to those who use miles.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37151978)

Are you sure about that?
This [thelocal.de] 259-car pile up seems otherwise.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37152970)

Nice winding roads and an unlimited speed limit would get rid of much of that monotony.

That is a very good idea. Not, of course, for reducing car crashes, but for accelerating the process of natural selection.

German autobahns disagree with you.

Autobahns aren't exactly "winding roads", and "nice" is very debatable also.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148256)

And set up tanks on the side of the road shooting at the cars. That would definitively make trips less monotonous!!

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148340)

If you are that tired, then driving faster on winding roads just means you will kill someone.
Automated cars will fix this problem.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

Kielistic (1273232) | more than 3 years ago | (#37150118)

Until, of course, you get behind someone driving very slow (because it's a dangerous winding road) and you cannot pass them because it is a winding road with no visibility. Give me straight and flat over winding any day.

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 3 years ago | (#37151378)

Or... remove all markings, signs and traffic controls!

"The goal of shared space is an improvement in road safety, encouraging negotiation of shared areas at appropriate speeds and with due consideration for the other users, using simple rules like giving way to the right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space [wikipedia.org]

Re:So make the road less monotonous (1)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 3 years ago | (#37154084)

True when you aren't tired.
But if you are tired, or if the driver of the speeding car coming the other way is tired, this will also get rid of you.
Speed limits please.

Magical electrodes (4, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148118)

Wait, they expect a set of dry electrodes positioned vaguely near the back of a persons head trying to record and distinguish brainwaves to be MORE reliable than the camera system? It's hard enough to get a reliable and accurate read with wet-contact electrodes through hair!

Re:Magical electrodes (2)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148304)

Add to that the fact that not all drivers even USE the headrests... I sit up straight, so my head is a bit forward of the headrests at all times. Somebody really did not think this through all the way.

Re:Magical electrodes (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148492)

Same here. I wager it's those that drive practically laying down that are falling asleep. I say connect the electrodes to a Tesla coil and see how fast those asses sit up!

- Dan.

Re:Magical electrodes (0)

GNious (953874) | more than 3 years ago | (#37151452)

Wanted: Citizenship in a Nation not about to go bankrupt...

I can recommend Belgium - but we don't really have a government....

Disclaimer: My actual citizenship is not Belgian - I loathe French too much for that.

Re:Magical electrodes (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148696)

So do I, but I recently test drove a volvo and the headrests are different, you feel them against the back of the head.
I wonder if EEG can detect drunkenness ?

Re:Magical electrodes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37149736)

So do I, but I recently test drove a volvo and the headrests are different, you feel them against the back of the head.
  I wonder if EEG can detect drunkenness ?

Not really, but an EEG will most likely record alpha waves (7 to 12 Hz) which are typically seen in humans when they are tired or most relaxed. When we are alert and concentrated we show large amounts of Beta waves. An increase in alpha could be an indicator that the driver is tired.

- Devavrat

Re:Magical electrodes (1)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148598)

Welcome to the advancement of technology.. FTA "NeuroSky say its latest sensors can operate through fabric, such as the outer layer of a vehicle's headrest" .. they also say they know they can distinguish between brainwaves of someone awake and at rest, but it doesn't specify if that's through fabric or not.

Re:Magical electrodes (1)

milkmage (795746) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149720)

but they're only looking for alert vs drowsy, which I would imagine are significantly different patterns..

"We know we can distinguish between the brain waves of someone who is wide awake and alert and someone who is drowsy and at risk of falling asleep at the wheel," says Tansy Brook, a spokeswoman for NeuroSky. "Further testing is required. However, we are far enough along to say this is absolutely viable."

That's not fair (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148152)

So blondes will no longer be able to drive - since the machines will not register any detectable brain activity...

Re:That's not fair (0)

PcItalian (1835114) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148302)

So blondes will no longer be able to drive - since the machines will not register any detectable brain activity...

As my ex would say "I resemble that remark"

Re:That's not fair (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148502)

Add vampires and politicians to that list.

- Dan.

Re:That's not fair (0)

Snarky McButtface (1542357) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148394)

Is that because because a blonde's head is usually closier to the lap belt?

Could also be used for braking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37148164)

A recent article in the Journal of Neural Engineering claims that EEGs can be used to detect the intention to brake.

http://iopscience.iop.org/1741-2552/8/5/056001

Emergency braking assistance has the potential to prevent a large number of car crashes. State-of-the-art systems operate in two stages. Basic safety measures are adopted once external sensors indicate a potential upcoming crash. If further activity at the brake pedal is detected, the system automatically performs emergency braking. Here, we present the results of a driving simulator study indicating that the driver's intention to perform emergency braking can be detected based on muscle activation and cerebral activity prior to the behavioural response. Identical levels of predictive accuracy were attained using electroencephalography (EEG), which worked more quickly than electromyography (EMG), and using EMG, which worked more quickly than pedal dynamics. A simulated assistance system using EEG and EMG was found to detect emergency brakings 130 ms earlier than a system relying only on pedal responses. At 100 km h1 driving speed, this amounts to reducing the braking distance by 3.66 m. This result motivates a neuroergonomic approach to driving assistance. Our EEG analysis yielded a characteristic event-related potential signature that comprised components related to the sensory registration of a critical traffic situation, mental evaluation of the sensory percept and motor preparation. While all these components should occur often during normal driving, we conjecture that it is their characteristic spatio-temporal superposition in emergency braking situations that leads to the considerable prediction performance we observed.

Using Headrests (2)

netdigger (847764) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148180)

How many people rest their heads against headrests. I know I never use it no matter what car I am driving.

So how effective will be to put an EEG in the headrest if you head never touches it.

And what will it do... (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148184)

when it detects you are drowsy? Shut the car off? Shock you? Pour you a cup of coffee?

Re:And what will it do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37148348)

Dave I've noticed you seem sleepy today. I'm afraid I can't allow you to drive me in this condition.

If only the car could drive you to the nearest Starbucks and print out a coupon for a double espresso. This thing has big time cross marketing potential for sure!

But, seriously, how about a horn honk and headlight flash so at least other people can get out of your way.

Re:And what will it do... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148370)

Notify your insurance company.

Something tells me these won't be optional equipment. Brought to you by the automotive/insurance/government/financial/real estate/military/oil/industrial complex.

Re:And what will it do... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148490)

when it detects you are drowsy? Shut the car off? Shock you? Pour you a cup of coffee?

Zap your butt with an electric shock.

Re:And what will it do... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149136)

Probably the same sorts of warnings the Lane Departure system gives, if you start to drift over the line.

That's not really the hard part - the effectiveness of the detection is the tricky part.

Re:And what will it do... (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149638)

Want to bet that the car that wouldn't start because it senses your too tired to drive, wouldn't call your wife to cancel your date-night after working a 70 hr week either.

Finally! (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148192)

Now all I need is one for my wife's pillow!!!!

Re:Finally! (1)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148566)

You can use my pillow. It seems to keep her awake just fine. 8-P

Sorry but I couldn't resist. I'll go away now.

Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37148214)

Just treat the problem empirically- Mount something like a TENS unit in the headrest that administers random electric stimulation at varying intensities. Wire it so that the car won't run unless your head is firmly against the back of the headrest.

Re:Nope (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149774)

Yea just what we need. Encouragement to not look around more.

lol (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148224)

Corrupted by the federal government for purposes the clearly defy the constitution in 3... 2... 1...

just let google drive (2)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148232)

how about putting the effort into autonomous vehicles....

Re:just let google drive (1)

petteyg359 (1847514) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148342)

Google's already been there and done that. Just get the bastards who think they have a right to kill anyone else on the road and can't stand not being "in control" (with what little self-control they exhibit, the idea that they can effectively be in control of anything is laughable, and putting them at the controls of the kinetic weapons that are motorized vehicles is ludicrous) to kill themselves off...

Re:just let google drive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37148400)

How about not.

Actually a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37148296)

I've been in a sleepiness-induced car accident, so I'm behind this idea 100%. The question is, will it work? And how will it stop you from nodding off?

Re:Actually a good idea (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148312)

I have a better idea, you don't drive when you are so tired. I manage to avoiding driving when I am drinking, so I think you probably can avoid it when you are tired.

Re:Actually a good idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37149092)

Tell that to the guy working double shifts. Of course that's whether or not it's really worth it. Should he be risking his life and those of others because working normal hours just doesn't pay?

Then again, the medical industry occasionally expects doctors to pull those type of hours and is more than happy to put lives at risk in this regard. And then people are left wondering why malpractice insurance is so damn high... Clue much? Probably not.

Strangely enough, the trucking industry says otherwise. Yet there are still truck drivers that manage to not get adequate rest.

Re:Actually a good idea (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#37150210)

> you don't drive when you are so tired.
That's obviously the best answer. But reality says sometimes you need to get somewhere by a certain time.

I have a birth defect that results in sleep apnea, with the sad result that even in my "waking" hours I've nearly always been sleepy to some degree.

I combat this with special medical equipment, drugs, and occasional shots of coffee. And it works pretty well.

But I really really wish that I had a viable public transit system. Or that I could afford a taxi/chauffeur. Without those, I don't know any other way to get around than driving myself..

We sure could use this in Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37148330)

We only got one straight road going west to east!

The technology comes from Neurosky, (2)

Zerth (26112) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148352)

who is desperately trying to find a market for mediocre, overpriced EEG units, since the gamers didn't bite.

Re: The technology comes from Neurosky, (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149940)

To be honest, this is a good move on their part. Gaming requires fast, precise response, and their tech just can't hack it there; so the headsets were only useful for secondary functions. Other than being shiny, the tech wasn't enough better than a keyboard to justify the price.

Detecting drowsy drivers is a *great* use of the tech. Here, you don't need fast response, so you can afford some time for noise filtering. And the signal you're looking for is much easier to spot: it's not little consciousness tweeks you've learned. Brainwaves when you're falling asleep are screaming obvious. You can probably pick them out with nothing more than an FFT. It's much easier than trying to image-process eye movements.

Drivers are to blame, not fatigue (0)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148500)

"Fatigue causes more than 100,000 crashes and 40,000 injuries, and around 1,550 deaths, per year in the United States ..."

Fatigue does not "cause" crashes.

People cause crashes, as a direct consequence of their decisions -- such as the decision to drive while fatigued.

Bonus: free shrunken heads! (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148754)

Perhaps it could also diagnose ADD, autism, BPD, schizophrenia, and approaching episodes of road rage? Think of the savings!

Re:Bonus: free shrunken heads! (1)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148832)

Perhaps it could also diagnose ADD, autism, BPD, schizophrenia, and approaching episodes of road rage? Think of the savings!

And respond by triggering a hard right turn into the ditch? I'm not sure I want my car practicing eugenics.

Re:Bonus: free shrunken heads! (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#37150130)

Cars don't practice eugenics, people do!

Re:Bonus: free shrunken heads! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37152784)

Me neither, but my neighbour on the other hand, he could use a good dose of that!

Relaxed vs. asleep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37148768)

I hope listening to Garrison Keillor doesn't cause a false positive.

Personal responsibility? (1)

king_grumpy (1685560) | more than 3 years ago | (#37148936)

Whatever happened to taking responsibility for your own actions? We have reversing cameras in cars because people can't take responsibility for their kids and might run them over. We have playgrounds without any risky equipment like monkey bars because kids might get hurt and their parents would sue. Time to take a teaspoon of cement and harden up.

continuing the trend (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149268)

pioneered by Mercedes Benz in their most luxurious line of vehicles.

Your average long-haul truck driver is unlikely to see this technology extended to the working class in his lifetime.

Re:continuing the trend (1)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37153532)

pioneered by Mercedes Benz in their most luxurious line of vehicles. Your average long-haul truck driver is unlikely to see this technology extended to the working class in his lifetime.

Just like disc brakes, power windows, electronic stability control, airbags and a/c never made it from Mercedes to trucks? Oh wait, they did.

Re:continuing the trend (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166324)

"Ahh I really love driving my Mercedes Benz. It has to be the most relaxing driving experience --" *FOGHORN BLARES*

Wow, THAT's high-tech! (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37149316)

Oh wait, for a moment I thought those were EG&G [wikipedia.org] headsets.

Car (1)

avikmajumder (2442080) | more than 3 years ago | (#37150970)

It is a heavy duty car.

Prior Art :-) (1)

sparkyradar (908639) | more than 3 years ago | (#37152968)

Heck, I remember taking an Engineering Design class about 30yrs ago. where we explored several ideas to detect dozy drivers. Sensing brain activity (and I think we found ourselves zeroing in on alpha-wave activity) was one idea, and arguably the best idea we came up with. Even so, it wasn't ground-breaking 30yrs ago (although a good *implementation* may have been groundbreaking).

(among other ideas: frequency and magnitude of driver-corrections; embedded steering-wheel sensors for pulse & blood-oxygen).

Kudos to them if they can make it work.

Slow speed is the main culprit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37155996)

Slow speed on long monotonous road is the main culprit. There was an amazing sentence from a BMW CEO or something where he told his audience that the main reason for crashes on highway was people falling asleep due to the way too low speed at which they were driving.

There are gigantic stretches on the German autobahn were there are no speed limit and there aren't many death on these roads: raise the limit from 55 mph to 110 mph on long monotonous highways and the fatalities on these stretches are going to go down.

Long life to the no-speed-limit-autobahn and the respectful german drivers!

 

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