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Transportation Science Technology

Car Makers Explore EEG Headrests 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the combine-with-electroshock-and-we've-got-a-winner dept.
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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Car Makers Explore EEG Headrests

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  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:01PM (#37148068)

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

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

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        At least let me try!

      • by Intropy (2009018)
        And it takes almost a year to get up to that speed.
      • 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.

      • by Urkki (668283)

        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.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      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.

      • by citizenr (871508)

        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.

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          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

          • by luxifr (1194789)

            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 Bundesstra

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

        • by GNious (953874)

          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.

          • by ShakaUVM (157947)

            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.

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              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.

            • by GNious (953874)

              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

              • by ShakaUVM (157947)

                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.

            • by Urkki (668283)

              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.

        • by Urkki (668283)

          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.

    • by godrik (1287354)

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

    • by geekoid (135745)

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

    • 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.
    • by Dr. Evil (3501)

      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]

    • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdZ (755139) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:06PM (#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!
    • 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.
      • by Hylandr (813770)

        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.

      • 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 ?
    • 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.
    • by milkmage (795746)

      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."

  • So blondes will no longer be able to drive - since the machines will not register any detectable brain activity...
  • 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.
  • when it detects you are drowsy? Shut the car off? Shock you? Pour you a cup of coffee?
    • 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.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      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.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      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.

    • 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.

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

    • by hondo77 (324058)

      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.

  • Corrupted by the federal government for purposes the clearly defy the constitution in 3... 2... 1...
  • by russ1337 (938915) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:18PM (#37148232)

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

    • 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...

  • by Zerth (26112) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:30PM (#37148352)

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

    • 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 t

  • "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.

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

    • by fluffy99 (870997)

      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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.

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

  • Oh wait, for a moment I thought those were EG&G [wikipedia.org] headsets.
  • It is a heavy duty car.
  • 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

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