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To control this Renault SUV, just use your brain waves

Look, ma, no hands! A mind-expanding Renault experiment challenges drivers to control a vehicle using their thoughts alone.

Three athletes sit in a Renault Kadjar SUV. This could just be a normal story about a few people going for a ride, except all three  are driving the car at the same time. Using their minds. 

On Tuesday, Renault Sweden posted a fascinating (and sometimes harrowing) video revealing the details of a literal thought experiment that uses brain waves to control a vehicle. 

The car company recruited three athletes who are attempting the En Svensk Klassiker (Swedith Classic Circuit), which challenges them to complete four races in cross-country running, cross-country skiing, swimming and cycling within 12 months. All three wanted to improve their mental game to finish the circuit, so Renault set them up with a mental-training coach and then challenged them to work together to pilot a modified SUV.

The customized Kadjar used Emotiv electroencephalography (EEG) headsets to read the drivers' brain waves. One person controlled left turns, one controlled right turns and the third handled the car's acceleration. 

The drivers started with a simulator to practice and calibrate the headsets, and it didn't always go well. They crashed the digital version of the car.

Renault named the group "Team Will Power." They had to work together while still concentrating on their individual tasks in order to pilot the SUV through a test course. A mechanical system reacted to the mind commands by turning the steering wheel or applying pressure to the accelerator pedal. Renault equipped the car with a stop button in case of emergency.

Here's a look at the control system used in the car:

Renault used EEG headsets and this control system to modify an SUV for mind-powered driving.


To be sure, the mind-powered car has some publicity stunt flair, but it's also a fun exploration of how EEG sensors can be used as a control mechanism for devices. 

In 2016, students at the University of Florida successfully employed Emotiv Insight headsets to fly drones. Renault used the same technology, but went bigger. Just don't expect to see hive-mind-controlled cars out on the open road anytime soon.

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