[nfb-talk] FW: National Federation of the Blind to Debut Car That Can Be Driven Independently by the Blind at Rolex 24

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Fri Jul 2 11:56:36 CDT 2010

>Chris Danielsen
>Director of Public Relations
>National Federation of the Blind
>(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
>(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
><mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org>cdanielsen at nfb.org
>National Federation of the Blind to Debut Car
>  That Can Be Driven Independently by the Blind at Rolex 24
>NFB, Virginia Tech, and Grand-Am Form Historic Partnership
>  to Advance Innovative Technology
>Daytona Beach, Florida (July 2, 2010): The 
>National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and 
>Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State 
>University, College of Engineering (Virginia 
>Tech) announced today that they have partnered 
>to demonstrate the first street vehicle equipped 
>with technology allowing a blind person to drive 
>independently.  The vehicle is scheduled to be 
>demonstrated to the public as part of the 
>pre-race activities at the 2011 Rolex 24 At 
>Daytona.  The Ford Escape, equipped with 
>nonvisual interface technology, will be driven 
>by a blind individual who will navigate part of 
>the famed Daytona International Speedway course on January 29, 2011.
>Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National 
>Federation of the Blind, said: “The National 
>Federation of the Blind is dedicated to the 
>development of innovative technology to improve 
>the lives of blind Americans, and Virginia Tech 
>has accepted our challenge to apply nonvisual 
>interfaces to the task of driving, which has 
>always been wrongly considered impossible for 
>blind people.  But we are not trying to build a 
>technology alone.  We are trying to build a 
>technology that can be combined with an 
>intellect to do things that neither could do 
>alone.  We are pleased to have the opportunity 
>to demonstrate the fruits of our efforts before 
>the automobile enthusiasts and racing fans at 
>the Rolex 24 At Daytona.  This demonstration 
>will break down the wall of stereotypes and 
>misconceptions that prevent our full integration 
>into society by showing the public that the 
>blind have the same capacities as everyone else. 
>Our only challenge is access to the information we need.”
>Dr. Dennis Hong, Director of the Robotics and 
>Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech, said: 
>“Three years ago we accepted the NFB Blind 
>Driver Challenge to develop a vehicle that can 
>be driven by a blind person.  The challenge was 
>not the development of an autonomous vehicle 
>that could drive a blind person around, but 
>rather the creation of nonvisual interfaces that 
>would allow a blind person to actually make 
>driving decisions.  The first-generation 
>prototype was demonstrated with a modified dune 
>buggy at the NFB Youth Slam in the summer of 
>2009.  We are pleased to work with NFB and 
>Grand-Am to demonstrate the second-generation 
>prototype at the Rolex 24 festivities.”
>“GRAND-AM is honored to lend its support to this 
>intriguing­and inspirational­project,” said 
>GRAND-AM Spokesman Herb Branham.  “The Rolex 24 
>At Daytona is a showcase for the latest 
>automobile technology, making this race an 
>appropriate backdrop for the first public 
>demonstration of a car that can be driven by the blind.”
>The NFB 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.  Undergraduate students at Virginia 
>Tech’s College of Engineering, under the 
>direction of Professor Dennis Hong, have been 
>actively working with the NFB on the 
>challenge.  During the summer of 2009 the 
>Virginia Tech BDC team worked with blind 
>students in the NFB Youth Slam on the 
>first-generation prototype of a blind-drivable 
>vehicle, and many of the NFB students had the 
>opportunity to drive using the first generation 
>of the nonvisual interface.  Dr. Hong and his 
>students are currently working with the NFB on 
>the second-generation prototype vehicle, which 
>will integrate new and improved versions of the 
>first-generation nonvisual interface technologies into a Ford Escape.
>For more information about the NFB, please visit 
><http://www.nfb.org/>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 
>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.

         David Andrews and long white cane Harry, dandrews at visi.com
Follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dandrews920

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