[nfbmi-talk] Fw: [Nfbnet-master-list] Blind Man Drives Car Independently

Larry Posont president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
Sat Jan 29 13:06:38 CST 2011

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Freeh,Jessica (by way of David Andrews <dandrews at visi.com>)" <JFreeh at nfb.org>
To: <nfbnet-master-list at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Saturday, January 29, 2011 12:48 PM
Subject: [Nfbnet-master-list] Blind Man Drives Car Independently


John G. Paré Jr.
Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2218
(410) 917-1965 (Cell)
jpare at nfb.org

Blind Man Drives Car Independently

Avoids Dynamic Obstacles

Baltimore, Maryland (January 29, 2011): The
National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the
oldest and largest organization of blind people
in the nation, announced today that for the first
time a blind individual has driven a street
vehicle in public without the assistance of a
sighted person.  Mark Anthony Riccobono, a blind
executive who directs technology, research, and
education programs for the organization, was
behind the wheel of a Ford Escape hybrid equipped
with nonvisual technology and successfully
navigated 1.5 miles of the road course section of
the famed track at the Daytona International Speedway.

The historic demonstration was part of pre-race
activities leading up to the Rolex 24 At Daytona
this morning.  Mr. Riccobono not only
successfully navigated the several turns of the
road course but also avoided obstacles, some of
which were stationary and some of which were
thrown into his path at random from a van driving
in front of him.  Later he successfully passed
the van without collision.  The Ford Escape was
equipped with laser range-finding censors that
conveyed information to a computer inside the
vehicle, allowing it to create and constantly
update a three-dimensional map of the road
environment.  The computer sent directions to
vibrating gloves on the driver's hands,
indicating which way to steer, and to a vibrating
strip on which he was seated, indicating when to speed up, slow down, or stop.

Mr. Riccobono said: "The NFB's leadership in the
Blind Driver ChallengeT has taken something
almost everyone believed was an impossible dream
and turned it into reality.  It was thrilling for
me to be behind the wheel, but even more
thrilling to hear the cheers from my blind
brothers and sisters in the grandstands*-today
all of the members of the NFB helped drive us
forward*.  It is for them and for all blind
Americans that the National Federation of the
Blind undertook this project to show that blind
people can do anything that our sighted friends
and colleagues can do as long as we have access
to information through nonvisual means.  Today we
have demonstrated that truth to the nation and the world."

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National
Federation of the Blind, said: "Just as our
colleague Mark Riccobono successfully surmounted
many obstacles on the Daytona course today, blind
people routinely surmount barriers by using
alternative techniques and technologies.  When
there is not a solution available, we muster our
resources and combine them with those of the
partners who make common cause with us to produce
the innovations necessary to create such a
solution.  That is how the NFB Blind Driver
ChallengeT came to happen, and that is how we
will make all of our dreams come true."

The NFB Blind Driver ChallengeT is a research
project of the National Federation of the Blind
Jernigan Institute-the only research and training
facility on blindness operated by the blind.  The
Jernigan Institute challenged universities,
technology developers, and other interested
innovators to establish NFB Blind Driver
ChallengeT (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 ChallengeT is to stimulate the development
of nonvisual interface technology.  The Virginia
Tech/TORC NFB BDC 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 uses the ByWire XGVT developed by TORC
technologies as the research platform for the
development and testing of the nonvisual
interface technologies that allow a blind person to drive.

For more information about the NFB, please visit
www.nfb.org.  For our digital news release about
the Blind Driver ChallengeT and the debut of the
BDC car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, 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

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