Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blind Driver Challenge vehicles: A roster

Thus far, four vehicles have been directly used as part of the National Federation of the Blind's Blind Driver Challenge. Each vehicle was modified with non-visual interfaces, which have been update, replaced or placed on hold as each new prototype was introduced. Work has been led by Dennis Hong, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and director of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, and his team of graduate and undergraduate engineering students since 2006. This past year, TORC Technologies joined the Challenge.

An overview of each vehicle:

DAVID: Demonstrative Automobile for the Visually Impaired Driver. The $2,000 modified red dune buggy that started it all. This is the vehicle debuted at the 2009 NFB Youth Slam and was a hit hundreds of media outlets around the world – most significantly garnering a front page story with “The Washington Post” and a spot on CBS’ “The Early Show.” Status: Now on display at the national headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland.

VIVIAN: Visually Impaired Vehicle Interfaces for Advanced Navigation. This golf cart was used to test different configurations of the sensors and non-visual interfaces. Status: A temporary-use vehicle, it is no longer part of the Blind Driver Challenge project.

BRIAN: Blind Research Interfaces for Advanced Navigation. A black 2010 Ford Hybrid Escape, part of the official second generation BDC vehicle team which we will be publicly debut at the Rolex24 on January 29, 2011, at Daytona International Speedway.

ANDREA: Automobile for Non-visual Driving Research, Education and Advancement
This charcoal 2010 Ford Hybrid Escape is exactly identical as BRIAN except in color. It also will be publicly debut at the Rolex24 on January 29, 2011, at Daytona International Speedway.

Images by Steven D. A. Mackay and John McCormick/Virginia Tech.

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