[Nfbmo] FW: Blind Man Drives Car Independently

Gary Wunder gwunder at earthlink.net
Sat Jan 29 21:58:37 UTC 2011

This was wonderful.


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From: Freeh, Jessica [mailto:JFreeh at nfb.org] 
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Subject: Blind Man Drives Car Independently


John G. Paré Jr.
Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives National Federation of the
(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

Mr. Riccobono said: “The NFB’s leadership in the Blind Driver Challenge™ 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 Challenge™ came
to happen, and that is how we will make all of our dreams come true.”

The NFB Blind Driver Challenge™ 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 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.  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 XGV™ 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 Challenge™ 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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