[nabs-l] Blind Driver Challenge of the National Federation of the Blind Featured at NIWeek 2010

Freeh, Jessica JFreeh at nfb.org
Tue Aug 3 01:39:05 UTC 2010

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Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

cdanielsen at nfb.org

Blind Driver Challenge of the National Federation of the Blind
Featured at NIWeek 2010

Austin, Texas (August 2, 2010): The Blind Driver 
Challenge of the National Federation of the Blind 
(NFB) is one of the new technological innovations 
that will be featured at this year’s NIWeek, held 
August 3–5.  Hosted by National Instruments (NI), 
NIWeek is the world’s leading graphical system 
design conference and exhibition, showcasing the 
latest developments in graphical system design, 
virtual instrumentation, and commercial 
technologies.  Dr. Dennis Hong of Virginia 
Polytechnic Institute and <?xml:namespace prefix 
= st1 ns = 
/>State University (Virginia Tech), College of 
Engineering will deliver a keynote presentation 
describing the work of the Virginia Tech/TORC 
team to create a nonvisual interface that will 
allow a blind person to drive an automobile independently.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National 
Federation of the Blind, said: “Building a 
nonvisual interface that will allow a blind 
person to operate an automobile independently and 
safely will expand the educational and employment 
opportunities of blind people.  We believe the 
technology that must be developed to make driving 
possible will offer opportunities for blind 
people to learn nonvisually in other areas; and 
in the process, we will learn more about how 
blind people perceive, gather, and manipulate 
information.  We believe that when this 
technology is fully developed, sighted people 
will also be able to operate their vehicles more 
safely and easily.  NIWeek provides us with an 
opportunity to highlight our Blind Driver 
Challenge and to encourage the developers of 
innovative technology to partner with us and make 
a car drivable by the blind a reality.”

Dr. Dennis Hong, director of the Robotics and 
Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech, said: 
“NIWeek is an excellent opportunity to showcase 
our work with the Blind Driver Challenge of the 
National Federation of the Blind, and to 
encourage other universities to accept the 
challenge.  As a professor, I have found that the 
Blind Driver Challenge is also a very important 
educational opportunity.  Last year we had twelve 
very talented undergraduate students working on 
our first prototype vehicle.  Throughout the 
project we teach all the fundamental theories of 
science, mathematics, and engineering, but this 
challenge was a fantastic chance for the students 
to apply all the things they learned to a 
real-life project.  I often ask my students, ‘How 
many opportunities in your lifetime do you have a 
chance to change the world?’  This is really a 
project that most people thought was impossible, 
but we are making the impossible possible.”

Ray Almgren, vice president of marketing for core 
platforms at National Instruments, said: 
“National Instruments is committed to providing 
tools that inspire engineers and scientists to 
improve the world.  Empowering students with the 
technology and training to solve the grand 
challenges facing society is at the core of this 
commitment.  We are thrilled that the Virginia 
Tech/TORC team is using National Instruments 
technology, including NI LabVIEW software and 
CompactRIO hardware, to create an interface for a 
blind-drivable vehicle that will literally change 
everyday life for the millions of blind and 
visually impaired Americans who cannot currently get behind the wheel.”

The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan 
Institute­the only research and training facility 
on blindness operated by the blind­has challenged 
universities, technology developers, and other 
interested innovators to establish NFB Blind 
Driver Challenge (BDC) teams, in collaboration 
with the NFB, to build interface technologies 
that will empower blind people to drive a car 
independently.  The purpose of the NFB Blind 
Driver Challenge is to stimulate the development 
of nonvisual interface technology.  The Virginia 
Tech/TORC team, under the direction of Dr. Dennis 
Hong, Director of the Robotics and Mechanisms 
Laboratory at Virginia Tech., is the only team 
that has accepted the challenge.  The team is 
currently working with the National Federation of 
the Blind on the second-generation prototype 
vehicle to integrate new and improved versions of 
the first-generation nonvisual interface technologies into a Ford Escape.

The NIWeek conference will be held August 3­–5, 
at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

For more information about the National 
Federation of the Blind, please visit 
www.nfb.org.  For our digital news release about 
the Blind Driver Challenge and the planned debut 
of the BDC car at the Rolex 24, including audio 
and video clips for television and radio, please 
visit www.DigitalNewsRelease.com/?q=NFB_CarKit.


About the National Federation of the Blind

With more than 50,000 members, the National 
Federation of the Blind is the largest and most 
influential membership organization of blind 
people in the United States.  The NFB improves 
blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, 
research, technology, and programs encouraging 
independence and self-confidence.  It is the 
leading force in the blindness field today and 
the voice of the nation's blind.  In January 2004 
the NFB opened the National Federation of the 
Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and 
training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.

CompactRIO, LabVIEW, National Instruments, NI and 
NIWeek are trademarks of National Instruments. 
Other product and company names listed are 
trademarks or trade names of their respective companies.

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