This year’s Consumer Electronics Show offers a futuristic twist on self-driving vehicles — cars that can actually read your mind.

Japanese automakers Nissan and Toyota showcased different approaches to a similar notion: that intelligent vehicles shouldn’t render the driver obsolete so much as assist in operating the vehicle.

Nissan is touting what it calls “Brain-to-Vehicle” technology, which promises to speed up reaction times for drivers. It uses what looks like a modified bicycle helmet to read a driver’s brain waves to anticipate movement, such as turning the steering wheel or pressing the accelerator pedal.

Consumer Electronics Show

The vehicle would begin to execute these driving maneuvers, helping the driver more accurately hug a curve or accelerate more smoothly. The technology monitors the driver’s emotional state — evaluating discomfort level on the fly — and adapts to the individual’s driving style.

“When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the machines,” said Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci. “Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable,”

Nissan at CES 2018

Toyota offers an even farther-out vision: the Toyota Concept-i, in which the driver and car cultivate meaningful, human-like relationship (think of it as a reboot of  Knight Rider).

The Concept-i is powered by artificial intelligence that similarly reads a driver’s emotion, and springs into action when necessary, mapping out an alternate, less-congested driving route designed to lower the stress level, or offering to take the wheel in low-visibility conditions.

Basically, it’s a car that anticipates the driver’s needs. Toyota’s concept car captured the imagination. People waited in line for an hour for an opportunity to experience a ride simulation.

Ford Motor Co. President Jim Hackett.
Sam VarnHagen

Ford and Honda offered more down-to-earth interpretations of automation.

Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett, in a keynote address today, said the Detroit automaker is working with chipmaker Qualcomm on a technology that would allow vehicles to communicate with one another to improve traffic flow and avoid collisions.

Honda is working on the something similar, which it calls “safe swarm” technology, in which clusters of vehicles communicate their positions to one another, helping avoid bottlenecks and road hazards and or smoothing out the perilous traffic merge.