Oddly Enough Blog

News, but not the serious kind

The worst car feature ever invented?

March 3, 2011


Every so often an idea comes along that is so awful it deserves a place in the Bad Idea Hall of Fame. Like there was the toilet timer that made sure workers don’t spend too much time in the bathroom, and of course there was that hotel bed-warming service.

GERMANY/But now, along comes an idea that makes those others seem positively brilliant.

We have photos showing “hands free driving” in a car that is controlled by the driver’s brain. I’m not making this up.

I don’t know how good you are at controlling your thoughts, but speaking for myself, if you strap that gizmo to my head when I’m behind the wheel, here are the sort of unfiltered random impulses my car is going to get from me:

Getchur motor runnin’, head out on the highway, lookin’ for ADVENCHUR…

Hey Pal! You think I won’t broadside you just because you’re driving a Jaguar? Really?


There’s supposed to be black ice on the highway today, but there’s only one way to find out…

Whoa, I can’t believe the black leather mini-skirt that chick is wearing. Let’s find out where she’s going…

But here’s the thing. Apart from those potential drawbacks, there’s an even bigger reason why this thing will never catch on. You can see it here, on this dork’s head.

“Hey there Emily, you wanna go for a spin in my new Brain Driver Mind Car?”

“Jeez Neville, as cool as that neuro-headset looks on your receding hairline, I don’t think so….”

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Daniel Goehring of the AutoNOMOS research team of the Artificial Intelligence Group at the Freie Universitaet demonstrates a hands-free driving of the research car named ‘MadeInGermany’ during a test in Berlin, February 28, 2011. The car, a modified Volkswagen Passat, is controlled by ‘BrainDriver’ software with a neuroheadset device which interprets electroencephalography signals with additional support from latest radar sensing technology and cameras. The ‘BrainDriver’ application is a demonstration and not roadworthy yet. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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The final words in the caption say it all “…not roadworthy yet.” I don’t think it ever will be, for all of BG’s reasons and more.

Reminds me of the “study” done in Alabama where they found out that in more than 90% of the cases, the last words the driver spoke prior to a pick-up truck crash were “Here, hold my beer, watch this ya’ll .”

Posted by Dave_not_dave | Report as abusive

You notice that they’re not quite confident in this feature enough to actually remove the steering wheel….

Posted by justK | Report as abusive

What a lifelike looking cyborg, nicely dressed and on his way to pick up his date – Connie Crash Test Dummy…

Posted by Onedoor | Report as abusive

@Dave: It’s a well known fact that the last words of 90% of all rednecks is “Hey y’all, watch this!”

This device gives an whole new meaning to the term “Fahrvergnügen”

Posted by AllThatJazz | Report as abusive

@69spinster: when this contraption first becomes popular, you’ll probably have to get used to seeing it on people driving on sidewalks and through restaurants, too.

Posted by Carne | Report as abusive

@justK: You notice that they’re not even confident enough to have the car actually moving!

Posted by AllThatJazz | Report as abusive

@jclimacus, the sheer laziness I have seen some people exhibit makes me wonder how they have not started complaining about the inconvenience of still having to lift their eyelids to see.

And my car already has enough of a personality issue as it is, it doesn’t need my thoughts hooked into it.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

is that Sonny from I, Robot behind the wheel?

Posted by GeorgiaPeach | Report as abusive

Ah, I think the BT-70 needs a much bigger miracle…

Posted by rcbasler | Report as abusive

“I think the BT-70 needs a much bigger miracle”

like zero gravity? Or suspension of disbelief?

Posted by GeorgiaPeach | Report as abusive

I would not trust my brain with that. I do pay attention to the road, but I am also thinking “what am I gonna have for dinner”, or “do I need to stop at the store for cat litter?”. I would crash, no doubt. I’m embarrassed that they did that to a VW…..

Posted by vwgal | Report as abusive

Going for the trifecta here…

@jclimacus, if your students ever do please let me know because at that point figure we should just call it game over. And it’s funny you should ask because Eugene “Smarty Pants” Johnson actually got his hands on the device and is testing it on the polar exploration model of the airplane. He is using a dog that is obsessed with chasing it’s tail to pilot it.

http://blogs.reuters.com/oddly-enough/20 11/02/24/we-almost-always-land/

@Spin, seriously you just freaked me out a bit. That was way too accurate. :p

@GeorgiaPeach, ok who told you the BT-70 was being fueled by suspension of disbelief? That’s classified company information! Was it Lamar? It was Lamar wasn’t it? Oh man he is gonna get a stern talking to!

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

How’s car going to react when I see a hottie? :D

Posted by fwd079 | Report as abusive

I agree with One, he looks like a Cyborg…
Mr.Pilot, quit thinking of Miranda!!!

Posted by Shra | Report as abusive

Doggone it @ifly! I thought you told us Lamar wasn’t going to know about the double-secret suspension of belief technology! Loose lips sink ships, remember? Maybe we can just get BG to send Lamar back to Krasnoryak for assignment, so he doesn’t spill any more beans. Or lose any more donuts.

Posted by Dave_not_dave | Report as abusive

@fwd: There will be probably be a temperature warning system that will holler back… “Careful. Temperature rising!” Not ideal.

Or, in the case of reaaaaaly hot hotties, the handbrake lever will automatically ‘rise up’ to the occassion and halt the car in the middle of the road. Again, not ideal.

Posted by Malteser | Report as abusive

If my driving was overridden by my thoughts, I don’t know if I’d ever make it home in one piece.
I might start thinking about having to run some errands later on and end up going there now. If someone cut me off, I’d be thinking about ramming them in the rear end and off the road. I go through at least one school zone everyday, and I usually think ” why do I have to drive 20 mph in the middle of the day when school is in session and there are no children anywhere near the road or sidewalks. Or, it would be so much shorter if that street wasn’t a one way in the wrong direction. I wonder how fast this car could really go on a straight section of a well maintained road. You get the drift.

Posted by mikemm | Report as abusive

I like to hear all your negative comments. In fact I would be disappointed if everyone liked it. “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”… Albert Einstein.

When computers where first invented they were the size of a small building and didn’t have a fraction of the abilities of your cheapest smartphone. Yet try living without them today.

Take a good look at that geeky looking contraption on that balding guy’s head. That my friend is our future, yours and mine. Because when it comes to operating any machine or device nothing can give you a faster response time than the mind, which is where it all starts. On the road, that increased response can mean the difference between life and death. So I’ll be here cheering them on and helping where possible to refine the technology, because its possibilities are endless.

Posted by JCan | Report as abusive

@Dave & Ifly – just put Lamar back on double secret probation. I’m sure he’ll learn just as well as the rest of his Delta Tau brothers ;)

Posted by GeorgiaPeach | Report as abusive

Uh oh, we got a problem here folks… lock the doors, we gotta feed this one extra meddies…

Posted by Shra | Report as abusive

Does it come with a cell phone built-in? Somehow I don’t think this will ever make it to market in a vehicle, but if it does I will be buying a very large truck!

Posted by somethingtosay | Report as abusive

@JCan, have you been paying attention to how a lot of people when behind the wheel seem to do everything BUT pay attention to driving? The only good that can come from this technology is if it starts forcing people to actually pay attention to driving the vehicle again. These “negative comments” as you like say only serve to point out how easily the mind wanders and what the result could be if the driving ability of one’s vehicle is directly linked to the drivers thoughts. Seriously, take a moment to think about it. I mean really think about it.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

you know Shra…I’m sure if I’d actually read all of Jcan’s post (instead of using the Evelyn Wood style of reading), I would have learned something. ;)

Posted by GeorgiaPeach | Report as abusive

In the middle of all of this scorn, could you please consider the breadth of this application for all forms of motorized mobility (like wheelchairs)?

Not all people are “lookin’ for advenchur.” Some just want to be able finally to have ordinary access to a society that requires mobility.

Posted by pointfish | Report as abusive

Just an FYI — in case anyone hasn’t realized it yet:

ALL driving is controlled by our thoughts — it just happens to be mediated through hands and feet.

This is simply a different kind of mediation.

Cars themselves are awkward-looking, unnatural and cumbersome contraptions that we strap ourselves into in order to perform tasks.

Posted by pointfish | Report as abusive

*Humour blog sign shining brightly!!*

Posted by Shra | Report as abusive

@pointfish, yes the application does have it’s benefits in motorized mobility, i.e. wheelchairs or personal scooters. But we aren’t talking about them, we are talking about driving in a vehicle that weighs a couple of tons or more traveling at very high speeds. As of now we can leave our hands on the wheel and foot on the gas but have our heads and our thoughts directed somewhere else that’s less safe. For example looking down at a text on our phone, the food we are eating, the makeup we are applying. That is very dangerous as it is. Now think about a vehicle that’s connected DIRECTLY to our thoughts where thinking keywords makes the car react. We are driving down the road at 70 mph on a highway and we recieve a text. Force of habit we glance over to read it. Our reaction from the text is the thought “I can’t believe Lamar LEFT me a text like that!” Our car sensing the keyword in our thoughts turns left. We are now dead.

I am not saying the technology does not have it’s benefits but if it’s going to be applied to the operation of motor vehicles it is going to need a rediculous amount of research in REAL LIFE situations and a butt-load of refinement before it should ever be introduced onto the masses. Even then I do not want to be the one to try the BETA version.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

And just as a point of interest I am a former driving instructor and I take the operation of a motor vehicle VERY seriously. If you want to debate any points relating to the topic make sure you bring your A game.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

It’s not a device to help the lazy. It’s to help the disabled. And it would certainly prevent all the “unintended acceleration” incidents which turn out to be the driver pressing the wrong pedal.

Posted by tkfromuk | Report as abusive

LOL ya I can see it now… Throw in Ozzy Osborne CD and play “I Don’t Wanna Stop” !!!!

Posted by Rich8554 | Report as abusive

I’ve seen something like that as a spider type creature in a sci fi movie. Seems there were LOTS of them. Can somebody PLEASE tell me what movie? The Matrix (or any sequels), Minority Report, I Robot…honestly, I don’t watch that much sci fi!

and Shra, if you must zap, I’ll take the hit. I have been trying to figure out what that mind meld contraption reminds me of!

while I’m waiting (hoping…wishing) for an answer, can I get a light dose of medi sprinkles & heavy dose of dark chocolate M&Ms on my donut please? TYVM :D

Posted by GeorgiaPeach | Report as abusive

@Rich – or maybe Sammy Hagar ‘I Can’t Drive 55′

Posted by GeorgiaPeach | Report as abusive


All you are saying is that current technology allows people to be lazy in their attention, while this technology would demand that people give greater attention to the driving (which you say that you take seriously).

Your point about driving in its current form only establishes that the human brain is capable of multi-tasking efficiently and that distractions in one function do not necessarily override other functions (awareness versus motor skills).

This means that the brain could also be capable of controlling a vehicle through other mediation even if distractions were present.

If people can control their hands and feet with their brains while a driving instructor is busy yapping at them, then they can probably control a computer with their brains while someone else is walking by.

Or can’t you work on a computer while being distracted?

Posted by pointfish | Report as abusive

@Dave – Ah, does THAT explain Alabama?

Posted by CrowGirl | Report as abusive

Pointfish and Jcan – Perhaps you are both new to the OE Blog, and were not aware that this is a HUMOR blog. (Or HUMOUR for some of our friends). There are already interfaces that allow people to communicate with computers and other devices by brainwaves, but the idea of driving a car this way (as opposed to operating a wheelchair) lends itself to being poked fun of. Kind of like braille instructions at the drive up teller window. Yes, there may be many valid reasons and uses, but the idea at first glance seems absurd. That’s what this blog is about.

Posted by inebgreen | Report as abusive


This article carried a headline in a global news service that stated a value judgment, without a clear indication that it was a humor blog and not a tech blog.

Mockery is a powerful social influence, especially in worldwide media positions.

Humor does not carry a “free pass” from social responsibility. Thoughtlessness in its presentation cannot be excused simply by invoking, “Hey, it’s just being funny.”

In strategic communication locations, scorn has the capacity to devalue achievements in debilitating ways, to undermine the arduous work of others with a careless swipe of phrase.

Destructive humor is easy and requires little sophistication. Constructive, artful humor is far more difficult.

It takes true talent and skill to elicit the ironies of the human condition in ways that benefit all, instead of selecting some for disdain, based on faulty criteria.

Posted by pointfish | Report as abusive

It’s okay Mr B, I don’t think you’re thoughtless. I know you put a lot of effort into your humour. And I know it’s constructive and artful.

Posted by CrowGirl | Report as abusive

Pointfish, there is, of course, “artificial intelligence.” And now I know that there is such a thing an “artificial sense of humor.” You appear to have both.

Posted by DoctorDoll | Report as abusive

@pointfish, Do not confuse muscle memory with concentration. I can type and talk to someone at the same time. Muscle memory allows my fingers to find the required keys and the ability to multi-task allows me to perform both tasks at the same time but I can not concentrate on both with 100% attention. My focus would have to be split between the two tasks. Yes we can physically manuever a vehicle without concentrating 100% at it. We can become distracted (hopefully only briefly) and still be able to keep the vehicle under control due to our having physical control over it. The point of this blog and the comments relating to it stem from our losing the physical control over the vehicle and having it’s ability to maneuver tied directly to our thoughts. That would mean we would have to be focused and concetrating on 100% driving 100% of the time of our trip. How long can you focus and concentrate 100% on something during an extended period of time? Do you not become distracted by your own thoughts after a bit? Do you find your mind wandering or simply lose focus? Therein lies the danger of the technology. A vehicle that weighs a ton or more traveling at high speeds with it’s ability to maneuver tied directly to the drivers thoughts, and the drivers thoughts have wandered. How will the vehicle react?

I will end my side of the debate because this is not the forum to continue it. We are not condemning the technology or it’s possible benefits if properly implemented. We are simply poking fun at the human mind and it’s ability to make a techology dangerous simply by the looney thoughts we might have. And if you notice most of the comments we make are done so at our own expense. Your respone to inebegreen however leads me to feel you don’t understand that because you don’t find this type of humor suitable to you. If that is the case sir or madam then should you return here you will find nothing for you and it will all be a waste of your time. So please, leave us to have our space and enjoy it as we will.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

Ok,stop now,please! Iwanna enjoy my Sunday,thank you very much!!!

Posted by Shra | Report as abusive

@Shra, yes ma’am, I am done.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

pointfish, were it not for your continuous serious approach to your comments you would have already been zapped, ey Shra? hehehe

I get this fellow’s frustration with the blog, but that’s what happens when people do not read the tagline under ODDLY ENOUGH BLOG.

Just in case you still don’t find it, it’s this:


There, now you know.

Posted by Malteser | Report as abusive