[Nfbc-info] Nfbc-info Digest, Vol 127, Issue 13

Brian Buhrow buhrow at nfbcal.org
Sat Dec 19 20:45:56 UTC 2015

	Hello Jordan.  The arguments you site will be the ones folks use
against us when they argue that the blind should not be allowed to operate
autonomous vehicles.  However, these arguments are misguided.  You've heard
the old addage that too many cooks spoil the broth?  The same is true for
driving a car.  If the car is under computer control and suddenly it needs
the human to take over, there is no way that control can be transfered from
computer to human fast enough to be safe.  Right now, Google and other
companies are testing these vehicles and the drivers are sitting in the
car, ready to take over instantly if there is a problem.  However, put
these machines in the main stream, and you can bet that people won't be
paying enough attention to affect a hand-off in a timely enough manner.  I
believe Google has already discovered this in their testing, which is why
they're arguing against driver control of any kind.

	The second myth is that humans are safe drivers.  The sad truth is
that 40,000 folks lose their lives in the US every year due to auto
accidents.  I live in a town of 60,000 people.  That number means that a
population equivalent to the size of the town I live in is lost every 18
months.  That number has remained high despite a myriad of safety features
that have been introduced into vehicles in the past 20 years.  Yet, we, as
a society, have decided that the benefits of driving out weigh this
tragically high rate of loss.  (And we're not even talking about injuries
due to auto accidents.)

	I believe autonomous vehicles will become a standard feature of our
society and there's no reason an autonomous vehicle can't safely be operated
by a blind person.  In order for that to happen, however, we need to step
up now and do what we can to assure that fear and prejudice don't cause us
to be legislated out of this revolution.  The technology isn't mature
enough to allow just any driver to operate these vehicles safely yet, but
when it is, we should make sure the problems we have to solve in order to
gain access are technical, not political.  The path to this access won't be
straightforward or without bumps and setbacks, but if we as a community
stick by our convictions and demonstrate that the arguments against us are
fallacious, by degrees, we will prevail.  

	Finally, Jordan, I want to assure you that your concerns aren't
entirely unfounded.  Eye sight confer's one with the ability to potentially
gather information quickly.  That provides an advantage in a variety of
situations.  Howevr, that advantage does not preclude the blind from
being able to find alternative ways to gather the required information and
make their own decisions.  We as a blind community know that we are capable
of doing what ever we want and we know that safely operating an autonomous
vehicle is well within our perview as capable members of society.  The
challenge is to figure out how, exactly, to do it and how to persuade our
sighted peers that we can.


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