Johannesburg - Scientists and futurists are predicting that the next stage of human evolution will be to technologically enhance ourselves by merging with machines.
In his book The Singularity is Near, author and inventor Ray Kurzweil predicts that as early as 2045 (that’s just 27 years away), humans enhanced by artificial intelligence will expand their intelligence by a factor of trillions - once we perfect the human-machine interface, that is.
A possible stepping stone to this seemingly far-fetched ideal is Nissan’s research into vehicles that can interpret signals from the driver’s brain, redefining how people interact with their cars.
Self-driving cars will become commonplace a lot sooner than 2045, with the common view being that they will suck all the fun out of driving, but Nissan’s Brain-to-Vehicle technology promises to speed up reaction times for drivers and lead to cars that keep adapting to make driving more enjoyable.
Nissan demonstrated the capabilities of this exclusive technology at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. B2V is the latest development in Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the company’s vision for transforming how cars are driven, powered and integrated into society.
“When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the machines," said a Nissan spokesman. "Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable.”
The breakthrough from Nissan is the result of research into using brain decoding technology to predict a driver’s actions and detect discomfort. By catching signs that the driver’s brain is about to initiate a movement, such as turning the steering wheel or pushing the accelerator pedal, driver assist technologies can begin the action more quickly. This can improve reaction times and enhance manual driving.
The driver wears a headset that measures brain wave activity, which is then analyzed by autonomous systems. By anticipating intended movement, the systems can take actions – such as turning the steering wheel or slowing the car – 0.2 to 0.5 seconds faster than the driver, while remaining largely imperceptible. Moreover, by detecting and evaluating driver discomfort, artificial intelligence can change the driving configuration or driving style when in autonomous mode.
Other possible uses include adjusting the vehicle’s cabin environment. For example, the technology can use augmented reality to adjust what the driver sees and create a more relaxing environment.
“The potential applications of the technology are incredible,” the spokesman said. “This research will be a catalyst for more Nissan innovation inside our vehicles in the years to come.”
Also at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz demonstrated its “Ask Mercedes” app which allows drivers to ask a virtual assistant for help on how to operate car features. The new service makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) and combines a chatbot with augmented reality functions.
Users can type questions into their smartphones or simply ask them by using the voice recognition software. Ask the assistant questions like “how can I link my mobile phone with my car” or “what is Sport+”, and it provides the answer with the aid of augmented reality.
Controls and displays in a new E- or S-Class can be scanned using a smartphone camera, and the system is able to explain the displayed functions to the customer. Aim your smartphone at the dashboard and numbers will be superimposed onto the controls in the camera image. Then simply tap the number to see more detailed information.
It’s a great help in modern cars that are getting ever more loaded with high-tech features that can be complicated to use. It sure beats having to jab away at a touchscreen of your new car, looking for a hidden sub-menu, just trying to figure out how to adjust the bass on the sound system. And it’s a lot quicker than thumbing through a thick owner’s manual.
The “Ask Mercedes” app understands naturally spoken language and questions formulated in a wide variety of ways. “How can I drive more economically?” is understood just as easily as “What is Dynamic Select”, for example. But even questions about the Mercedes-Benz brand and the Daimler company, such as “Who is the head of Mercedes?”, are also answered.
Artificial intelligence is truly revolutionising the car, and in just a few years it should be common for all cars to have AI assistants for voice, gesture and facial recognition as well as augmented reality.