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Technology has rapidly advanced for cars. Whether it’s electric vehicles or self-driving capabilities, new technologies have major ramifications for the automotive industry. The advancement of technologies also gives new opportunities for disabled people. This includes the ability to drive a car using a brain microchip, as recently shown by a paralyzed man.

Paraplegic man drove a NASCAR racecar with a brain microchip

Paralyzed man driving a car on racetrack in Colorado using a brain microchip
Paralyzed man using a brain microchip to drive a racecar | Denver7 via YouTube

Recently, German Aldana Zuniga, a paraplegic man, drove a NASCAR racecar in Fountain, Colorado. Despite being paralyzed from the waist down, Zuniga was able to drive the 850-horsepower car for many laps, as reported by CBS4 Denver and Denver7

How could Zuniga successfully drive the powerful racecar? He did it with the aid of a technological breakthrough: a microchip implanted in his brain. “It’s an amazing experience. Since my accident, I don’t have mobility below my waist, so this is my first time driving a car,” said Zuniga

Neurosurgeon develops a brain microchip that enables a paralyzed man to drive after a car accident

Nine years ago, Zuniga got into a serious car accident. With paralysis from the waist down, Zuniga could not do many activities that most people take for granted, including driving a car.

However, Dr. Scott Falci, a Colorado neurosurgeon, and a team of researchers at Health ONE’s Falci Institute for Spinal Cord Injuries, gave Zuniga a new lease on life. They made a technological breakthrough with a brain microchip. Over the course of a year, the researchers developed the technology so that Zuniga could communicate between the brain microchip and a computer system in the racecar. 

How does the brain microchip driving technology work?

Computer system that enables a paralyzed man to drive a racecar with a brain microchip
Computer in racecar that communicates with brain microchip | Denver7 via YouTube

Dr. Falci detailed how the brain microchip driving technology works. He said, “The electrical changes get picked up on that electrode, travel down a cable underneath his skin to a little computer processor.” He continued, “When the computer recognizes that particular fingerprint, it knows to send the signal to the computer in our racecar and that computer knows to send it to the throttle and to actuate the throttle.”

Using his thoughts, Zuniga could start the throttle and keep the racecar at a steady pace. Also, using a specialized helmet that registers his head movement, he could steer the car. To slow down the car, Zuniga used a “tube attached to the helmet known as a sip-n-puff input.”

Brain microchip driving technology opens up many possibilities for disabled people

The new brain microchip technology gave Zuniga the ability to drive — a task that previously was unthinkable. “It’s unbelievable to think about being in the car, especially that fast. To be in it and watch how you go through the track smoothly, and it responds to what you think, it’s just incredible,” said Zuniga.

Falci is also excited about future possibilities for the brain microchip technology. Beyond using the technology for a racecar, he envisions many real-world applications. This includes driving an electric wheelchair or a golf cart. The technology could control a robotic arm, an exoskeleton device, or an implanted medical device. 

Falci added, “Technology is advancing, so we have to help do our part in it and make it become available for everyone.” Hopefully, Falci’s goals will come to fruition, and many disabled people will have the ability to drive and do other previously unthinkable activities. 


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