US & Canada

Scientists to present car for blind drivers next year

Beach buggy for blind people (provided by the National Federation of the Blind)
The scientists first equipped a beach buggy with non visual aids

US Scientists and the National Federation of the Blind are developing a car for the blind and will present a prototype next year.

The vehicle will be fitted with technology that allows a blind person to drive independently, the NFB and Virginia Tech University said.

Non-visual aids include sensors indicating turns in the road via vibrating gloves.

Puffs of compressed air on the face will alert the driver to obstacles.

Other aids to be fitted include a vibrating vest to give feedback on speed and a steering wheel with audio cues and spoken commands indicating the car's direction.

Exploration

Last year Virginia Tech turned a beach buggy into an experimental vehicle for blind drivers.

They used sensor lasers and cameras to act as the eyes of the buggy.

The model to be presented next year will be a modified Ford Escape sport utility vehicle, the NFB announced.

"We're exploring areas that have previously been regarded as unexplorable," said NFB president Marc Maurer.

He added that projects like this car was changing people's perception of the blind.

"We're moving away "from the theory that blindness ends the capacity of human beings to make contributions to society".

Mr Maurer said he started talking about a car for blind drivers ten years ago.

"Some people thought I was crazy," he said.

The prototype is expected be be publicly tested by a blind driver on the Daytona race track in Florida next January.

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