Cars Could Monitor Brainwaves and Heart Rate


Jaguar is experimenting with several biological sensor tools to improve driver safety. They include remote brain wave monitoring and vibrating pedals, but it’s unclear how close they are to practical solutions.

The Jaguar Land Rover company says it’s running a series of projects under the code name ‘Sixth Sense’. One is to use brain wave monitoring to look for signs of a driver who is tired or lost in thought and then giving a visual or audible alert.

While such monitoring is certainly viable in principle, it usually involves a special headband, helmet or stick-on sensors for the skull. Jaguar says it’s instead looking at using sensors in the steering wheel that would pick up the brainwaves through the palms.

According to Jaguar, that can actually work and it’s simply a question of filtering and amplifying the “signal” to isolate the brainwave activity. It says both NASA and the US bobsleigh team already use a similar approach.

The company is also looking at using sensors in the seat to monitor heart beat and breathing patterns, with the idea of both giving alerts if the drivers health may be deteriorating, and changing entertainment and lighting settings if the driver appears stressed. Of course, having your chosen radio show or podcast interrupted for some smooth jazz or relaxed classical music might be stress-inducing in itself.

Another project in the works is putting tiny cameras around the “infotainment” screen where drivers press buttons to control the audio system and other settings. The idea is to detect which button the driver is planning to press before the finger reaches the screen, making the relevant change, and perhaps using ultrasonic waves to give the finger the sensation of having pressed the button. Jaguar claims this can cut the time it takes to press the button by 22 percent, in turn reducing the time the driver’s eyes are off the road.

Finally the company is looking at building haptic feedback into the accelerator pedal, the idea being to create ways to transmit information without adding even more indicators to the dashboard. It suggests uses could include the pedal vibrating to indicate the car has exceeded local speed limits or is at risk of hitting a car in front.