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Blind Drivers – Who would have seen that coming?

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

The National Federation of the Blind’s Jernigan Institute issued a challenge in 2004 that was accepted by only the Virginia Tech Blind Driver Challenge Team. The institute issued a $3000 grant to launch the project in 2006 and since then the Virginia Tech team has wasted no time in making great strides towards one common goal – to create an operable vehicle that does not require sight.

Dennis Hong, a mechanical engineering and robotic professor, and nine undergraduate students from Virginia Tech University designed and constructed a special car that caters specifically to the blind!

In order to allow the blind to navigate the car, the Virginia Tech team integrated laser range finders, voice command controls, and other sensory devices.

The multi-sensory interface includes but is not limited to a vest that either vibrates or shakes depending on whether the driver needs to slow down or completely stop, has the ability to measure how far the vehicle is from the side of the road and other objects, and is able to instruct the driver how to operate the steering wheel in response to the outside stimuli; the instructions are delivered to the driver through a verbal command.

This system will not only improve the quality of life for the vision-impaired, it has the ability to improve the quality of life for everyone! It has been proposed that such technology be included in regular cars as warning systems to help encourage safe driving techniques, farm equipment to reduce accidents, and even walkers to increase safety and ease when navigating through traffic.

Although great strides are being made towards designing a car that will allow the blind to operate a vehicle freely, it has not been proposed as to how auto insurance will be handled.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/AheadoftheCurve/story?id=8168749&page=1

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