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Brain Brakes Car Faster Than Foot

Braking via brain waves at the start of our intention to slow could stop a car 12 feet sooner at highway speeds. Karen Hopkin reports

If you’ve ever had to slam on the brakes to prevent an accident, you know that the time it takes to get your foot to that pedal can seem like an eternity. Now, German researchers aim to cut that reaction time by getting drivers’ brain waves to help stop the car. Their findings appear in the Journal of Neural Engineering. [Stefan Haufe et al., "EEG potentials predict upcoming emergency brakings during simulated driving"]

When you’re behind the wheel, or doing anything physical, your brain knows what it wants you to do before your body swings into action. Most times, this minor delay between thinking and doing is no big deal. But when you’re moving at 60 miles an hour and the car in front of you stops short, every fraction of a second counts.

Researchers recorded how quickly volunteers reacted when the lead vehicle in a driving simulator suddenly hit the brakes. Sensors monitored the subjects’ brain activity. Turns out drivers knew they needed to slow down more than a tenth of a second before they tap the brakes.

That might not seem like much, but if cars could read minds, they could stop 12 feet sooner at highway speeds. Which could mean the difference between a scare and a smash.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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