Mind reading apparently is no longer reserved for psychics: it may soon trickle down to automobiles. According to global patent applications recently submitted by Ferrari, the sports car manufacturer is developing technologies aimed at monitoring a driver’s mental and physical state, and subsequently adjusting traction and stability controls to suit.
The patent filing, recently uncovered by Britain’s Autocar, reveals some of the basics behind the system. Although similar to Mercedes-Benz’s technology, which keeps tabs on driver drowsiness, Ferrari’s idea expands far beyond monitoring eye activity. Biometric systems will also monitor a driver’s respiration, blood pressure, heart rate, electrical activity in the brain, and skin temperature. Based on these sensors, the system will adjust electronic aids -- notably ESP and traction control -- to what it believes the driver can handle at any given point.
“Drivers tend to miscalculate -- in particular, overestimate -- their driving skill,” reads the patent application. “More importantly, their psychophysical condition, with the result that driver-selected dynamic vehicle performance simply reflects the driver’s wish, as opposed to the driver’s actual psychophysical condition and proficiency.”
Although enthusiasts may bemoan the addition of yet another electronic nanny -- especially one that could turn a 458 Italia into a four-wheeled version of Firefox -- such a system could potentially save over-excited drivers from writing off a $225,000+ car in a collision. In theory, it could actually make the driving experience more involving or relaxing, depending on your state of mind.
“The dynamic performance may be modified to enhance driving safety in the case of a tired or unresponsive driver, and also to enhance driving pleasure and/or performance in the case of an alert responsive driver,” reads the application.
As is typically the case with patent applications involving new technologies, there isn’t any timeframe as to when such a system could ever become reality, be it in a prototype, F1 racer, or production vehicle. Although we’d wager a semi-sentient Ferrari is still some ways away, there’s no better time than the present to pick up a Ferrari that still offers human control over various electronic driving aids.