Video: This Is Your Brain Driving The Nissan LEAF Electric Car (According To Nissan, Anyway)

From the slightly bizarre (if cute) Necomimi cat ears and Shippo cat tail through to the Puzzlebox Orbit brain-controlled helicopter, we’re slowly becoming used to the idea that electronics devices can now read and interpret our brainwaves, turning our mere thoughts into a brand new type of entertainment.

Meanwhile, scientists at universities around the world are putting that same technology to less frivolous pursuits, building new prosthetics and even entire exoskeleton systems designed to one day enhance the lives of millions who have lost a limb, suffer debilitating diseases like ALS, or are unable to be as active as they once were due to advancing years.

Forget cat tails and ears. This is a mind-reading car. Sort of.

Forget cat tails and ears. This is a mind-reading car. Sort of.

Of course, using brain-controlled toys is certainly a lot of fun. Brain-controlled prosthetics and medical aids have the power to revolutionise the world forever. But we’ve never before seen a brainwave analyzer used to advertise a car.

Until now.

That’s because Japanese automaker Nissan has just released a new YouTube ad campaign featuring a set of specially-prepared Nissan LEAF electric cars that not only read the brainwaves of the person behind the wheel but then project drivers’ analyzed reactions onto the road around the car as a series of Anime-inspired patterns.

The brain waves of participants are matched up with various pre-defined graphics which are then projected from the car onto the road.

The brain waves of participants are matched up with various pre-defined graphics which are then projected from the car onto the road.

It’s all part of a celebration of the LEAF’s fifth birthday, and is designed to show how fun and enjoyable it can be to drive an electric car. Entitled “The Electric CARtoon! In A Driving School At Night,” the film chronicles the reactions of young drivers as they get behind the wheel of an all-electric Nissan LEAF for the first time. With each driver fitted with a brainwave-reading headset, they are each asked to drive along the road while special on-board computers track their brain activity and translate it into one of 33 different visual patterns.

Joy or exhilaration for example, are translated into statements like “Wow!!!” or “Wheee!!!,”graphics for which are projected onto the ground at each side of the car. The anxiety experienced when one student accidentally hits a cone while practicing a reverse parking maneuver meanwhile, is translated into “Yikes!!!”

Naturally, this is more advertising gimmick than it is serious scientific endeavour, but the video short does manage to focus on the joy that most people experience when getting behind the wheel of an electric car for the first time. Colloquially know as the the “EV Grin” by advocates, first driving impressions usually revolve around how quiet the car is, the instant off-the-line power that every electric car offers, and the excellent road handling caused by mounting the battery pack low down in the center of the car.

While it makes for a fun, unusual and quirky ad however, we can’t help but wonder if Nissan has missed out on some more substantial research which could — if carried out correctly — do wonders for its sales.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve amassed more than thirty years of collaborative electric vehicle driving experience, with this writer logging ten of those years at the wheel of everything from a small electric microcar through to quadricycles and full-size, highway-capable cars.  And we all agree that driving an electric car is a far more relaxing experience in general than driving a similar gasoline-powered vehicle.

The mind-reading Nissan LEAF has an interesting design too.

The mind-reading Nissan LEAF has an interesting design too.

As we all know, staying calm and relaxed behind the wheel not only makes you a better and safer driver but can also improve your fuel economy, help you stay out of danger, and makes you less likely to be involved in an accident too.

As to the above ad? It’s certainly unique — although not the weirdest ad we’ve seen involving the Japanese-made Nissan LEAF. That honor has to go to Family Mart, which ran a special ad a few years ago promoting CHAdeMO DC quick charge stations at various Family Mart locations across Japan. It featured a monster from the popular TV show Ultraman, as well as Ai Shinozaki, a famous Japanese ‘gravure idol’ (model) and singer. The dance routine at the end of that ad we think still gives it the bizzare-o-meter edge on Nissan’s brainwave attempt.

Still, had Nissan added Necomimi cat ears and Shippo cat tails to all of the drivers, we might have given this latest ad the benefit of the doubt…

Do you think Nissan’s latest LEAF ad is clever, quirky, or just a bit too weird? And what emotions and feelings do you feel behind the wheel of an electric car?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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