Many high-end cars today come equipped with brake assist systems, which help a driver use the brakes correctly depending on particular conditions in an emergency. But what if the car could apply the brakes before the driver even moved?
This is what German researchers have successfully simulated, as reported in the Journal of Neural Engineering. With electrodes attached to the scalps and right legs of drivers in a driving simulator, they used both electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyography (EMG) respectively to detect the intent to brake. These electrical signals were seen 130 milliseconds before drivers actually hit the brakes—enough time to reduce the braking distance by about 12 feet.
Seated facing three monitors in a driving simulator called The Open Source Racing Car Simulator, each subject was told to drive about 18 meters behind a computer-driven virtual car traveling at about 60 miles per hour. The simulation also included oncoming traffic and winding roads. When the car ahead suddenly flashed brake lights, the human drivers also braked. With the resulting EEG and EMG data, the researchers were able to identify signals that occurred consistently during emergency brake response situations.