We can already imagine just what you’re thinking — the blind have no place behind the wheel, right? As it turns out, though, cars can steer themselves these days, so there technically no reason why (save a few laws) a computer-assisted blind person couldn’t drive. Virginia Tech’s RoMeLa successfully tested a laser-guided dirt buggy last year (see above), and teaming with the National Federation of the Blind this week, it intends to demonstrate a pair of full-sized augmented SUVs next year. In January 2011, the Daytona racetrack will play host to two heavily customized Ford Escape, filled with “nonvisual interfaces” like a vibrating vest and gloves,
a steering wheel that provides audio cues on when to turn, and a tablet device covered with tiny holes (called AirPix) that represents the road and obstacles around the vehicle with jets of compressed air. Even with all those gizmos, we understand if you still might not want your neighbors barreling down the street, but let’s face it — plenty of us sighted folks are just as visually impaired. Video and full press release after the break.
Update: Dr. Dennis Hong of RoMeLa just informed us that though the auditory steering wheel was part of the laser-guided buggy, it won’t appear on the Ford Escape. He also relates that letting the blind drive is merely a short-term goal — the big picture here is to develop new interfaces for the blind, and safer transportation technology.
Continue reading Prototype car with tactile feedback challenges the blind to drive (update)
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