[Ohio-talk] Autonomous Cars--See Article

Wanda Sloan wsloan118 at roadrunner.com
Sun Apr 15 16:52:48 UTC 2018

Good info.

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From: Ohio-Talk [mailto:ohio-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Milena
Zavoli via Ohio-Talk
Sent: Sunday, April 15, 2018 12:38 AM
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Subject: [Ohio-talk] Autonomous Cars--See Article

Greetings Friends,

The following article appeared in the New Jersey Technology Division
Listserv.  I thought you might be interested in some up-to-date information
about this all-important topic to the blind.


Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:04:19 +0000
From: Mario Brusco <mrb620 at hotmail.com>
To: "njtechdiv at nfbnet.org" <njtechdiv at nfbnet.org>
Subject: [Njtechdiv] Researchers develop autonomous vehicles to help 
	the blind
<CY1PR0301MB2011496DAAF7347ECC3C5C5F86B30 at CY1PR0301MB2011.namprd03.prod
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8" 
Researchers develop autonomous vehicles to help the blind
By Jason Dearen, Associated Press | April 13, 2018 
In 2012, Steve Mahan, who is blind, climbed into the driver's seat of a
self-driving car and rolled up to the drive-thru of a Taco Bell in a video
that's been viewed more than 8 million times online. 
The piece, produced by Google, captured the potential of autonomous-car
technology to change the lives of the visually impaired. "It was my first
time behind the steering wheel in seven years and was absolutely amazing,"
Mr. Mahan said. 
Self-driving-car advocates say that in addition to helping the disabled, the
vehicles will allow people to do other tasks while driving and make roadways
safer by removing human error. But six years after Google's viral video,
national advocates for the estimated 1.3 million legally blind people in the
United States are worried the industry is not factoring their needs into the
design of the new technology, a mistake they say will make the cars more
expensive and harder for them to access. "Although we have been held up as
obvious beneficiaries of the technology in conversations and presentations,
this will have just been exploitation if the systems are not accessible,"
said Anil Lewis, executive director of the National Federation of the
Blind's Jernigan Institute. "How about instead of Taco Bell, we demonstrate
a blind person independently operating an autonomous vehicle, dropping off
his/her kids at school on the way to work, and maybe stopping by a Starbucks
on the way?" 
 The concerns are fueling new research outside the auto industry to develop
data and software meant to help ensure the needs of the blind are met when
autonomous cars become commonplace. In a University of Florida study, blind
people are using experimental software that could be easily installed in
cars and peoples' phones. 

 On a recent sunny winter day in central Florida, Sharon Van Etten eased
into the backseat of an SUV and began speaking to a computer screen in front
of her. "Where do you want to go?" the computer's voice responded. Ms. Van
Etten, who is legally blind, said "Kmart," and off the car sped, the
computer's voice intoning, "Central Christian Church on the left" and other
landmarks as they coasted down the street. When the driver pulled the car up
to the store, the voice told Van Etten which side to exit from and mentioned
some of the obstacles she'd face between the car and the store entrance. 
University of Florida researcher Julian Brinkley developed the program,
which he has named "Atlas." Using data he collects from users like Van Etten
and others through collaboration with the Florida Center for the Blind in
Ocala, he's figuring out the specific needs blind people have using
self-driving cars, and using his software to solve problems. "If I'm a
visually impaired person and I don't have the ability to verify visually
that I'm at the appropriate location, how do I know that it's not dropping
me off in a field somewhere?" Mr. Brinkley said. "In the case of autonomous
cars, hopefully accessibility will be moved to the forefront by some of the
Brinkley doesn't have access to a self-driving vehicle so instead uses a
process developed by Stanford University researchers in a specially
configured conventional vehicle. Participants interact with vehicle-control
software in what appears to be a self-driving vehicle, and the vehicle's
driver, hidden behind a partition, uses instructions from the software to
drive to the right place. Participants don't know that a human driver is at
the controls. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Texas A&M University, and the US Army Research Laboratory also are working
on accessibility issues for driverless vehicles for blind and other people
with disabilities. 
 At Waymo, Google's self-driving-car company that started nearly a decade
ago, officials say visually impaired employees contribute to design and
research. While no specific system for blind riders has been completed, the
company says it's developing a mobile app, Braille labels, and audio cues. 
Spokespeople for General Motors Cruise AV group, Nissan North America Inc.,
and Toyota Research Institute all said the companies are committed to
accessibility in general but offered no further comment. 

 Mahan, the man famous for the YouTube video who still consults with Waymo,
said he's cautiously optimistic. "Autonomous vehicles aren't being designed
for blind people; we're one of the beneficiaries of the technology," he said
from his San Jose, Calif., home. "They're working on it. I don't push. They
expose me to what they're working on, and so I'm patiently waiting." 
 Autonomous-car industry analysts say the needs of disabled people are being
discussed as designers figure out how users will interface with the cars,
but there are many competing demands. "They're trying to figure out what way
to interface with these vehicles for riders, and to build a sense of trust
about what the vehicles are doing," said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with
Navigant Research in Detroit. "But right now, I don't know if anyone has all
the answers." In the meantime, advocates for the blind have turned to
Florida's Brinkley and other researchers to push development forward. 
Back in Ocala, Cinzhasha Farmer giggled nervously as the Atlas voice spoke
to her. She was eager to participate in Brinkley's study so she can one day
drive without relying on others. "It's one of my goals, and I don't know how
I'll ever accomplish it ? but that car may do it," she said with a smile. 

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