[Nfbc-info] Blind Driver Challenge Receives Top Graphical System Design Achievement Awards at NIWeek 2010

Freeh, Jessica JFreeh at nfb.org
Tue Aug 17 09:40:16 UTC 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

Blind Driver Challenge Receives Top Graphical System
Design Achievement Awards at NIWeek 2010

Baltimore, Maryland (August 16, 2010): The 
National Federation of the Blind’s Blind Driver 
Challenge­an innovative effort to create a 
nonvisual interface that empowers a blind person 
to operate an automobile­received the 2010 
Application of the Year Award at the National 
Instruments Graphical System Design Achievement 
Awards ceremony held during the NIWeek annual 
conference in Austin, Texas.  In response to a 
challenge issued by the National Federation of 
the Blind (NFB), students and researchers at 
Virginia Tech­using National Instruments (NI) 
technology­developed a semi-autonomous vehicle 
that allows a blind driver to successfully 
navigate, control speed, and avoid collision 
while traversing a closed driving 
course.  NIWeek, hosted by National Instruments, 
is the world’s leading graphical system design 
conference and exhibition, showcasing the latest 
developments in graphical system design, virtual 
instrumentation, and commercial 
technologies.  The Virginia Tech/TORC Blind 
Driver Challenge team project also received the 
Graphical System Design Achievement Award in the Robotics category.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National 
Federation of the Blind, said: “The Blind Driver 
Challenge is a National Federation of the Blind 
initiative to cause the creation of a nonvisual 
driving interface for the blind.  We can build a 
car that the blind can drive independently and 
safely.  All we need is an interface that can 
capture information from the environment and 
provide it to the blind driver in nonvisual 
ways.  The innovations produced in the process of 
creating this blind-drivable vehicle will help 
the blind gain access to a great deal of 
information that has traditionally been presented 
only visually.  These innovations will also help 
the sighted find ways to learn more than they now 
know and operate machines with increased efficiency and safety.”

The paper describing the project was submitted by 
Dr. Dennis Hong, director of the Robotics and 
Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) at Virginia Tech’s 
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = 
/>College of Engineering, along with Greg 
Jannaman and Kimberly Wenger, two of the 
undergraduate students that worked under Dr. 
Hong's direction on the first-generation 
prototype of the nonvisual interface for a 
blind-drivable vehicle.  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.  The vehicle is scheduled to 
be demonstrated to the public as part of the 
pre-race activities at the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 29, 2011.

Dr. Hong said: “Three years ago we accepted the 
NFB Blind Driver Challenge to develop a vehicle 
that can be driven by a blind person.  I 
recognized this as an opportunity to motivate my 
students to challenge themselves to change the 
world.  Winning the National Instruments 
Graphical System Design Achievement Award is a 
tremendous validation of their hard work and creativity.”

Ray Almgren, vice president of marketing for core 
platforms at National Instruments, said: “The 
competition was very intense this year, with more 
than one hundred applications submitted by 
universities and technology companies from around 
the world who are using National Instruments 
hardware and software to create life-changing 
technologies.  The Blind Driver Challenge of the 
National Federation of the Blind is truly 
reflective of our commitment to provide students, 
engineers, and scientists with the technology and 
training to improve quality of life worldwide.”

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.

About National Instruments

National Instruments 
(<http://www.ni.com/>www.ni.com) is transforming 
the way engineers and scientists design, 
prototype and deploy systems for measurement, 
automation and embedded applications.  NI 
empowers customers with off-the-shelf software 
such as NI LabVIEW and modular cost-effective 
hardware, and sells to a broad base of more than 
30,000 different companies worldwide, with no one 
customer representing more than 3 percent of 
revenue and no one industry representing more 
than 15 percent of revenue.  Headquartered in 
Austin, Texas, NI has more than 5,000 employees 
and direct operations in more than 40 
countries.  For the past 11 years, FORTUNE 
magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

LabVIEW, National Instruments, NI, ni.com 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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