[nfbmi-talk] Fw: [Nfbnet-members-list] Blind drivers test out vehicle at VIR Source:WSLS 10 (Roanoke, Virginia)

Larry Posont president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
Thu Jan 20 21:37:41 CST 2011

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Freeh,Jessica (by way of David Andrews <dandrews at visi.com>) 
To: nfbnet-members-list at nfbnet.org 
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2011 10:17 PM
Subject: [Nfbnet-members-list] Blind drivers test out vehicle at VIR Source:WSLS 10 (Roanoke, Virginia)

The following article about the Blind Driver ChallengeT was published yesterday on a Roanoke, Virginia news site. This is the first of several important e-mails about the Rolex 24 At Daytona event that will be sent in the next few days as Race Day (Saturday, January 29) approaches.  Please stay tuned.
Blind drivers test out vehicle at VIR
Source:  WSLS 10 (Roanoke, Virginia)
Published: January 19, 2011

When Anil Lewis lost his sight, he sorely missed driving.

Now, technology and innovation allow him to drive again, as he did at Virginia International Raceway on Wednesday.

"For me, driving again is a very awesome experience," said Lewis, director of strategic communications for the National Federation of the Blind.

He and the NFB can't wait for tens of thousands of people to witness a blind driver demonstration as part of the pre-race activities of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 29. That's what the research team and drivers were practicing for at VIR this past week.

"Hardly anybody else in the world believes this is even possible," said Mark Riccobono, executive director of the NFB's Jernigan Institute. "Because we believe it's possible, we're working on it and found the brightest minds who believed in it and are working on it to make it possible."

The vision that one day blind people would drive independently started with Marc Maurer, president of the NFB. In 2004, the organization called on innovative technology as part of its Blind Driver Challenge.

So far, Virginia Tech with its Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory is the only university to step up and take on the challenge to develop non-visual driver "interfaces" or tools, like gloves that send vibrations to tell drivers how to steer.

Riccobono hopes more universities will get involved now that one hurdle was jumped ­ developing the vehicle or "vehicle research platform" ­ that could integrate the non-visual interfaces and test out ideas on how the car could communicate with blind drivers. That vehicle was developed by TORC, a spin-off company from Virginia Tech specializing in unmanned vehicles and autonomous systems.

TORC developed a ByWire XGV (drive-by-wire) vehicle using a Ford Escape Hybrid, said TORC software engineer Jesse Hurdus. The collaborative team completed two prototypes vehicles.

The Virginia Tech team, led by graduate student Paul D'Angio and adviser Dennis Hong (director of the robotics lab), developed a SpeedStrip and DriveGrip as interfaces.

A driver sits on the SpeedStrip to communicate through the back and legs whether a driver needs to speed up or brake. The DriveGrip is a pair of gloves that vibrates which direction to turn and also to what degree depending on the finger. For instance, if the vibration is on the pinky finger, that means the driver should make a sharp turn.

D'Angio wanted to take on a project that would help society. The "ear-to-ear" smiles of blind drivers taking the vehicle for a spin also fuel his passion.

Lewis and Riccobono hope these efforts can help blind people gain more access to jobs or other activities. They believe driving is just the beginning of the uses for this kind of technology.

Most of all, they would like to shatter misconceptions people have about the abilities of blind people. The NFB continually pushes the horizons of independence and its 50,000 members are counting on the Blind Driver Challenge.

"We want to prove blind people can drive," Lewis said. "Where it takes us from there, that's the fun part of the drive."

Learn more

For more information about the Blind Drive Challenge and to get updates on the Daytona demonstration, visit www.blinddriverchallenge.org.

For more info on Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, visit www.romela.org.

For info on TORC, visit www.torctech.com .

For more info on the National Federation of the Blind, visit www.nfb.org.
Link to article: http://www2.wsls.com/news/2011/jan/19/blind-drivers-test-out-vehicle-vir-ar-785883/ 


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