Monday, January 14, 2013
Motor vehicle independence for the blind and visually impaired is being improved by the development of both self-driving vehicles and sensory driven vehicles.
In October 2010 Google unveiled a self-driving automated car that allows drivers to travel to pre-programmed locations. In essence the driver isn't actually "driving" the car so much so that he or she is going along for a ride. As part of the car's sophisticated on board technology are cameras, radar and lasers that aid in navigation. Google's self-driving car will give visually impaired drivers the freedom to choose their own destination(s), change the route as needed and experience the independence that other drivers enjoy.
In February 2011 Mark Riccobono, a blind executive at the National Federation of the Blind, drove a Ford Escape at 25 mph around the Daytona International Speedway while dodging obstacles thrown from another vehicle. The event was part of the Blind Driver Challenge and the car had been equipped with an array of sensory equipment, laser-range finders and global positioning that provided cues on how to navigate the race track.The development of this vehicle is a major advancement for blind drivers in that it allows a blind individual to "drive" the car and not just ride along. The vehicle's sensory equipment included features that allowed the driver to experience tactile, physical stimuli integrated into the steering wheel and driver's seat that compensated for the lack of visual stimuli. Furthermore, the continuing development of sensory driven vehicles for those who are visually disabled will invariably lead to advancements in safety and operation of standard vehicles such as devices that alert a driver when a vehicle is in their "blind spot" or assisting drivers in navigating in conditions like fog that impair visibility.