how we’ll spend time in our self-driving cars

Cars are going to drive themselves sooner or later — so what will we do with all that extra commuting time so we’re not stuck twiddling our thumbs?

That’s what Audi is looking to find out with a new study, conducted as part of a collaboration with the human-machine interaction experts of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering. It put test subjects in a super futuristic autonomous car simulation, then assigned them a series of attention-demanding tasks while monitoring brain activity with EEG sensors.

It’s called The 25th Hour project — an allusion to the 50 minutes or so the average driver spends behind the wheel, and the “extra” hour they could gain without having to drive.

SEE ALSO: Waymo is training its self-driving vans to pull over for the cops

“In future, people traveling from A to B will be able to surf the Internet at leisure, play with their children — or do concentrated work,” Melanie Goldmann, head of culture and trends communication at Audi, said in a statement about the project, making it clear that efficiency was the main focus here.

Millennials were specifically selected as test subjects — we’re more receptive to self-driving cars, according to Audi — and put to work in the sim while being alternately bombarded with ads, neon lights, and social media notifications, as well as cocooned in a quiet pod environment with ambient lighting.

The EEG results found that the latter setup was more relaxing, and therefore better for productivity. The distracting demo was, of course, distracting, making the work more difficult. Audi knew that would be the case from the start — but that doesn’t mean the test was a waste of time.

“The results show that the task is to find the right balance,” Goldmann said. “In a digital future, there are no limits to what can be imagined. We could offer everything in the car — really overwhelm the user with information.”

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