The future car headrest tech that could save lives

By 2020, car headrests will have sensors that use brain-reading technology to ensure you’re always attentive while driving.

Meryl D'Souza January 30, 2017

Have you ever been driving home after a long day at work and found yourself fighting to stay awake? What about driving around in a daydream, thinking about work or something that’s going on at home?

The point is, it’s easy to get distracted while driving. You could either be fighting an urge to sleep, thinking about something else or something on the road may catch your attention. It’s this momentary lapse in concentration that could have a fatal end.

Bearing these distractions in mind, Changhong Research Labs and Freer Logic have teamed up to find a rather innovative solution to keep drivers’ attention from wavering: electroencephalogram (EEG). This ingenious piece of technology was presented at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and involves a brainwave-reading car headrest.

The headrests – that Freer refers to as a 'non-contact neuro bio monitor headrest' – will feature built-in sensors designed to monitor a person’s brain activity in real-time without any need of physical contact. What that means is the technology can record brain activity, continuously checking whether the driver is paying attention and making sure his/her full focus is on driving and nothing else. 

During the demonstration at CES, a live-feed displayed on a screen showed the brain activity of an individual. While watching a driving video, a green bar was completely filled-up when they concentrated hard. However when the person became distracted, a change in their brain activity was detected.

The two firms are looking for a way to build on the systems that can detect attention fluctuations. Peter Freer, the company’s president said at CES, “Right now they’re working with haptics to shake the wheel or shake your seat to wake you up or give you an auditory detection.”

At present, Freer is working with U.S. and foreign automakers about refining the technology to be used in future cars. “The auto industry is slow in adoption of new tech, as it must be vetted quite thoroughly,” he said. “It is likely to be in vehicles beginning in 2020, and has the potential to save many lives.”

By then of course we may all be in autonomous cars anyway. But even if we do still need to be in the driver's seat, it seems we're going to have a head full of technology.