[Nfbmo] Blind drivers at the steering wheel???

Fred Olver goodfolks at charter.net
Tue Apr 23 11:29:03 UTC 2013

Blind drivers at the steering wheel

> 14 April 2013 Last updated at 19:37 ET
> Blind drivers at the steering wheel
> By Damon Rose BBC News
> Innovations in automated driving have led to speculation that blind people 
> may be able to take to the wheel. But do they want to drive - and could it 
> become a reality?
> How would you feel if a blind person pulled up next to you in a car?
> This time last year, Google released a video showing a blind man driving a 
> car. He was seen going to a local drive-through restaurant near his home in 
> San Jose, California, and later collecting dry cleaning without any 
> difficulty.
> Steve Mahan, the driver, heads the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center and 
> hadn't been in the driver's seat of a car since giving up his licence eight 
> years earlier after losing 95% of his sight. On this occasion, the only 
> action he performed was to press a start button. He couldn't control the car 
> independently, but the video showed an intent to make driving more 
> accessible and safe for everyone.
> "I'm finding there's a lot of buzz, a lot of people in the blind community 
> talking about driverless cars," says Mahan. "In America, getting a driver's 
> licence is a rite of passage. It represents being able, having the liberty 
> to go where you want to go. Cars and car ownership are important parts of a 
> sense of independence and personal power."
> Public transport isn't very developed in the US, so being carless can leave 
> you isolated and could contribute to problems such as unemployment.
> Because of this, cars can provoke a very emotional response among blind 
> people, says Mahan. "We have had clients that will just go out and sit in 
> the vehicles they used to drive and turn the motor on, just to be behind the 
> wheel."
> The driverless car uses a combination of GPS, laser, radar and 3D 
> environment data that was likely to have been collected by Google's other 
> cars, the ones whose picture-taking brought us Street View.
> Mahan, 60, believes blind people will be driving in his lifetime and, after 
> experiencing several journeys in the Google car, says he'd be  confident 
> enough to use one now if it had talking controls.
> Others are much more sceptical.
> "I would be surprised if in the next five years these products will reach 
> market and we'd be legally allowed to drive," says Hugh Huddy, a campaigns 
> officer at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, and who is himself 
> blind.
> The technology may be heading in one direction, but there are other barriers 
> to the prospect of blind people driving - namely lawmakers and other road 
> users.
> Google has been successful in lobbying the states of Nevada, California and 
> Florida, all of which have now passed laws to allow the testing of automated 
> cars on their roads. It doesn't follow that people with sight loss will 
> automatically be granted a licence, though.
> Huddy is concerned about insurance and liability.
> "If someone is involved in an accident, a human being could run in front of 
> the car, or a load could fall off a lorry, and the technology probably would 
> not save you from being in a collision," he says.
> It evokes nightmare scenarios of people who can't see, sitting in a metal 
> box oblivious to the fact that a truck may be bearing down on them, or 
> wondering what that soggy sounding chassis-shaking bump may have been.
> Google's automated cars have already travelled 300,000 miles and caused no 
> accidents. This is said to be safer than the average driver.
> Ingmar Posner, an engineer at the mobile robotics group at the University of 
> Oxford, is part of an engineering team working on a car that will be able to 
> take the strain off the driver with partial automation.
> "Imagine one day on the M25 you're trying to go from A to B. A light will 
> come on your dashboard and say, 'I know exactly where I am, we've driven 
> this stretch of road loads of times. If you like, I can take over for the 
> next 500m.'"
> The futuristic idea of a fully-automated vehicle in which you can sit back 
> and read while sipping a cappuccino on the way to work is capturing the 
> imagination, but isn't yet close to going on sale.
> Cars that can do smaller functions, such as control a car in traffic jams, 
> keep you inside lane markings or auto-park, are already on the road or about 
> to come to market courtesy of Toyota, Mercedes, BMW and others.
> Posner believes his car could affordably reach the showrooms in 10 or 15 
> years, but that a fully blind person still wouldn't be able to drive it.
> He believes partially automated cars like his will help to make it possible 
> for some impairments to be eliminated as barriers to driving.
> "The thing I'm envisioning is that visual aids in your field of vision could 
> highlight the lane markings for people who find night driving difficult," he 
> says. "You also get pedestrian detection in cars these days so the edges [of 
> disability and ability] will start to get blurred."
> Lots of people will need convincing that someone with no sight should be 
> allowed to pilot a road vehicle independently. Mahan thinks a gradual creep 
> of automated features will lay the foundations for blind drivers to become 
> acceptable.
> "What will happen is they will not get comfortable with blind people 
> driving, they will get comfortable with the capabilities of self-driving 
> cars that sighted people will be using."
> He points out that, even if it does occur, cars still won't be the answer to 
> all his way-finding challenges.
> "There will still be a difficulty getting out of the car and finding your 
> way to a front door of where you're headed, once it has parked itself," he 
> says

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