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

Todor Fassl fassl.tod at gmail.com
Tue Apr 23 15:39:35 UTC 2013

Guide dogs, at least those from Guide Dogs fFor the Blind, are trained 
to find the front door of a building.  You point a dog at a building and 
say, "inside," and most of the time, he'll take you right to the front 
door. My dogs have been known to have trouble with buildings with 
multiple glass panels that look pretty much llike doors. I was trying to 
get into a convention center one time and my dog took me to about 10 of 
these panels before we got to one with a handle.  But, I realized I was 
still better off than doing it by myself.

If the self-driving car can get you to the building and if you have a 
guide dog, you should be okay.

On 04/22/13 19:31, Sherri wrote:
> ----- 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
>>> -- 
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