[nfb-talk] Fw: [Blind drivers at the steering wheel

Sherri flmom2006 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 23 00:31:32 UTC 2013

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Patricia A. Lipovsky
Sent: Monday, April 22, 2013 4:46 PM
Subject: [fcb-l] Blind drivers at the steering wheel

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
>> -- 

More information about the nFB-Talk mailing list