Years from now, the visually impaired could be given the choice to get out of the passenger seat and get behind the wheel. AOL News reports that the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) has made it an organizational goal to develop a car to be used by the visually impaired and has kicked off the process by working with the Virginia Tech College of Engineering to develop a prototype vehicle.
Although NFB says the blind having adequate accessibility and legal rights to drive is many years away, the vehicle created by Virginia Tech a dune buggy equipped with a laser tracking device has given NFB hope.
AOL News says the vehicle uses a laser sensor mounted to the front to feed a computer visual information about what’s on the road. That information is fed to the blind driver two ways: a vest worn by the driver vibrates at different intensities to track speed, and audio instructions tell the driver what direction to turn the wheel every few seconds.
Next, the design team is working to equip a Ford Escape with blind driving aids, and NFB wants to showcase it in summer 2011, AOL News says. Building from the dune buggy, the team is developing a system that will detect traffic lanes and distinguish between similarly shaped objects like trees and signs.
NFB spokesman Mark Riccobono told AOL News that millions of dollars and hours of work will be needed to create a truly roadworthy and foolproof vehicle for blind drivers, and the appeal for blind drivers could be limited. However, he believes making the option available is important.
“For us, this is exactly the same as in 1962 when John F. Kennedy said, ‘We are going to the moon,’” Riccobono said. “It wasn’t getting to the moon that was significant. It was the path of technology development and how it got the nation to think about itself.”
Read the full story from AOL News