Ford experiments with mind-controlled steering and braking systems

The recently-revealed patent uses a ‘Brain Machine Interface’ to predict the behaviour of a driver, and adjust vehicle settings accordingly.

Detroit-based automotive giant Ford appears to be experimenting with technology straight from science fiction; a steering system controlled via the mind.

Revealed in a recently-published US patent filing titled “Chassis Input Intention Prediction Via Brain Machine Interface,” the design plans detail a system which uses a computer interface to predict driver behaviour.

While highly unusual and unlikely to be built for production cars, the proposal – which was lodged in 2020 but only made public this month – is not quite as extreme as the title and diagrams might suggest.

The system does not replace a traditional steering wheel or pedals outright, but instead uses brain scans to preempt the decisions a driver could be preparing to make, and adjust vehicle settings – including autonomous emergency braking and “adaptive front steering” – accordingly.

It is implied the technology could be used for full telepathic driving at some point – or to aid active safety systems, and determine if a driver has spotted an obstacle ahead.

“[This is a] method for controlling a vehicle using a Brain Machine Interface (BMI) device,” the document says. “[In this design the BMI] would be integrated into a headrest.

“BMI is a technology that enables humans to provide commands to computers using human brain activity … [this] provides control input by interfacing an electrode array with the motor cortex region of the brain and decoding the activity [to translate] neuron firing patterns in the user’s brain into discrete vehicle control commands.

“Recent advancements in BMI technology have contemplated aspects of vehicle control using BMIs. On aspect of such vehicle control includes driver intention determination for calibrating driver assistance responsiveness.

It is unclear why the patent was filed, what models the technology could be aimed at, or if a working prototype has ever been attempted.

A spokesperson for Ford in Australia was unable to provide further details when contacted by Drive.

However, the existence of copyright filings is not confirmation a specific design is destined for production. Manufacturers often file to protect products that ultimately don’t make it to market – either to earmark a design option, or prevent competitors from appropriating an idea.

You can read all of Drive’s stories about high-tech designs and manufacturer patents by clicking here.

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