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Nissan Mates Man And Machine

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On: Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 3:20PM | By: Chris Salamone

Nissan Mates Man And Machine

Year after year, car manufacturers improve vehicle ‘safety’ with new technologies developed after incredible investment into research and development. But at what cost? Do drivers really want a seven-speed automatic transmission for smooth shifting or scores of multi-directional airbags adding precious weight to an already bloated ride? Who knows, but most people can agree that any automotive technology improvements are usually exciting—regardless of how practical they might be. Unfortunately, Nissan’s new plan to develop hands-free R&D driving technology rides the same fine line of an exciting development mixed with questionable practicality.  

After determining your driving patters, Nissan’s ‘car of tomorrow’ will be able to predict your next move. In theory, as the driver thinks about turning right the vehicle will prepare itself to turn, choosing the proper speed and road position for you.

Nissan’s research into mechanized driving—appropriately named Brain-Machine Interface (BMI)—is in collaboration with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland (EPFL). The folks over at EPFL have already achieved some degree of success with their new systems, allowing disabled people to maneuver their wheelchairs by thought transference alone!

Professor José del R. Millán, a leader of Nissan’s joint project, stated: “The idea is to blend driver and vehicle intelligence together in such a way that eliminates conflicts between them, leading to a safer motoring environment.” While BMI technologies are already established in the scientific community, Nissan and EPFL are trying to create systems that take BMI a step further: predicting driver intent, evaluating cognition, and relating that data to the driving environment.

There are a few concerns though. The last thing we need is a poorly treated, used and abused vehicle becoming self-aware. That didn’t turn out well for John or Sarah Connor. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense to use BMI tech for individuals without the ability to steer or push the pedals. But, personally, I really enjoy shifting and taking turns at unreasonably dangerous speeds. If Nissan wants to develop cars without the fun factor of apparent danger, count me out.

While approaching Nissan’s new joint-venture with skepticism, it’s easy to appreciate the potential efficiency and safety a BMI system would create on the roads. Hopefully, if such a thing comes to fruition Nissan will manage to balance the driving experience with some level of fun and foster driver confidence in putting private thoughts into the cold, calculating hands of a machine.


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