The time between your impulse to hit the brakes and a your right foot actually stomping down on the pedal amounts to as much as 15 feet of stopping distance – more than enough to make a serious difference in avoiding a collision or significantly reducing injuries.
This new research comes out of Germany, after scientists published their work in the Journal of Neural Engineering. The researchers took it a step further, however, identifying the specific brain waves that correspond to a driver’s desire to hit the brakes and then building a driving simulator to put it into practice. In total, 18 subjects were tested on a driving simulator, wearing a special helmet with built in sensors. The difference between the impulse to react and the actual reaction was quantified at 130 milliseconds, and with the brakes applied as a result of brain waves, the stopping distance from a speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) amounted to between 12 and 15 feet.
Stefan Haufe of the Berlin Institute of Technology and one of the researchers involved in the project admits that the technology is still far from reality, but points to the promising results.
Currently, some automakers are using radar-based technology to measure closing distances and apply the brakes before a driver has time to react. In a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Volvo’s City Safety was shown to reduce accidents, with vehicles using the technology showing a reduction in the number of property damage claims by 27 percent, while claims for personal injuries were cut in half.