[AI] Now, a car for the blind

Gopalakrishnan gopalakrishnan_vip at yahoo.co.in
Fri Jul 2 22:34:49 EDT 2010

S & T 




Now, a car for the blind 


London, July 2, 2010 




Scientists are inching closer to develop a special car, which can be driven by blind motorists.


The unique car, expected to be built as early as next year, will be equipped with a new technology that would help a sightless person to get behind the wheel.


The technology, called non-visual interfaces, will guide its driver through traffic by transmitting information about nearby vehicles or objects.


Vibrating gloves or streams of compressed air directed behind the wheel are among the options for communicating the information needed to avoid collisions and reach a destination.


The National Federation of the Blind of the U.S. and Virginia Tech, which are jointly developing the car, said they hope to demonstrate a prototype of the car in 2011, the Telegraph reported.


“We’re exploring areas that have previously been regarded as unexplorable,” said Dr. Mark Maurer, president of the National Federation 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 first came up with the idea that the blind could drive about a decade ago when he launched the organisation’s research institute.


“Some people thought I was crazy, and they thought, ‘Why do you want us to raise money for something that can’t be done?’ Others thought it was a great idea,” Dr. Maurer said.


“Some people were incredulous. Others thought the idea was incredible.” 


The vehicle is based in Virginia Tech’s 2007 entry into the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition for driverless vehicles financed by the Defence Department’s research arm.


The blind organisation was impressed by the invention, saying it is part of a broader mission, which will change the way people perceive the blind.


Mark Riccobono, executive director of The NFB’s Jernigan Institute, said: “This will change when people see that we can do something that they thought was impossible.” 




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