Attention-operated vehicle uses EPOC headset to detect distraction, shut down car

Distracted driving, whether due to cell phone usage or other reasons, is a major cause of car crashes and the related fallout both in the U.S. and abroad, something that has prompted the NHTSA to propose an in-car system to automatically block cell phones. The Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia, more commonly called RAW WA, has come up with a more novel solution involving a so called attention-operated car.

Back in 2008, we reported on Emotiv Systems' newly developed EPOC headset, a headband containing 16 sensors that are placed against one's head while the device is being worn. Using this device, the EPOC system records brainwave patterns related to specific thoughts, then uses that information as part of a larger system. In this case, that larger system is the attention-operated car.

The vehicle, featured above, is a Hyundai i40 equipped with a system that only allows it to operate when the driver — who is wearing one of the Emotiv EPOC headsets — is paying attention to the task at hand. If the driver becomes distracted, the car will start to slow down, and if the driver doesn't realize his or her mistake and start paying attention, the car will shutdown to further degrees.

You can see an example of this in the video above, giving insight into how the system is setup and how it functions in real-time. The idea behind the development is that if the EPOC headset delivers brainwaves indicating the driver is distracted, such as sending a text message or daydreaming, the car will react to that, helping prevent potential crashes or hazardous driving.

Said Pat Walker, RAW WA Executive General Manager, "The impact of inattention is now comparable to the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by speed and drink driving, which are all contributors to Western Australia consistently having the worst fatality rate of any Australian state. Nationally, it is estimated inattention was a factor in 46 per cent of fatal crashes."