Friday, March 25, 2011

Blind, and want to ride in the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle?

The Blind Driver Challenge reached an important milestone on January 29, 2011, when the first public demonstration of a blind person independently operating an automobile using non-visual interfaces was successfully held at the Daytona International Speedway.

This achievement comes from the commitment and dedication of National Federation of the Blind members across the country. Whether it is the NFB's Blind Driver Challenge, the education programs, or any of the dozens of programs and services provided by NFB at the local or national level, it always begins with gathering the resources required to build our dreams for the future.

The NFB Imagination Fund is a primary source for the financial resources needed to build new programs. Those who help to collect those resources have the satisfaction of contributing to our future success. At our National Convention in Orlando, Fla., those who help raise considerable resources for the NFB Imagination Fund also will get to have their own Blind Driver Experience.

What is the Blind Driver Experience?

* An incredible opportunity for you and up to three of your friends to ride in the Blind Driver Challenge car -- the same car that was driven on the famed Daytona International Speedway -- while it is driven by a skilled blind driver

* An exclusive occasion to witness, up close, the non-visual access technology that makes it possible for a blind person to drive while experiencing a ride in the second-generation Blind Driver Challenge vehicle

* A unique chance to dialogue with a trained blind driver about the technology, the experience of testing the technology, and future interfaces for blind driving.

Thirty of this year’s Imaginators will have the honor of participating in the Blind Driver Experience during the convention. The top 10 Imaginators in overall dollars raised will automatically be selected to participate. The remaining twenty spots will be drawn at random from the pool of individuals who raised at least $1,000 and who plan to be in attendance at the convention.

In order to be eligible to participate in the Blind Driver Experience you must:

* Register for the Race for Independence (, or call (410) 659-9314 ext. 2371)

* Raise at least $1,000 or more, no later than June 15, 2011

* Register for the 2011 National Convention

* If selected, be available at the appointed time during the convention (participating individuals will be assigned a ride time on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 5)

Photo by Steven D. A. Mackay

Monday, March 7, 2011

Discovery Canada's 'Daily Planet' features Riccobono, Hong

Two days after making history as the first person to drive the Daytona International Speedway unassisted, Mark Riccobono talked with Jay Ingram of Discovery Canada’s “Daily Planet” television program. Dennis Hong of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech also joined the talk, discussing the five years in the making high-tech efforts behind the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle. This talk -- featuring footage of the Jan. 29 debut -- was recorded Jan. 31 at the Daytona International Speedway’s winners circle.

Mark Riccobono talks with media at Daytona's celebrated winners circle. Image by Steven D. A. Mackay

From 'Fast Company': Welcome to the TED Revival: Blind People Drive, Paralyzed People Walk

From 4 March 2011: Yesterday morning at TED resembled an old-time faith-healing session--except instead of the Bible, the force was technology.

First Dennis Hong presented the results of his robotics lab RoMeLa's collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind. They equipped a car with an accelerometer, GPS, two cameras, and laser rangefinders, and then created a set of novel nonvisual interfaces--vibrating gloves and seat mats, and a brand-new screen called the AirPix that looks like a tiny air hockey table. It uses puffs of air like pixels to create an "image" of obstacles in the road ahead... Read More.

Dennis Hong at Daytona International Speedway, 29 January 2011. Photo by Steven D. A. Mackay

Blind Driver Challenge appears on 'MotorWeek'

Weeks before the National Federation of the Blind’s Blind Driver Challenge vehicle took the course at Daytona International Speedway, MotorWeek’s Yolanda Vazquez was following the story in Virginia – at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg home – and then in Florida – for the big public debut. Here, from an episode of “MotorWeek” is her report, titled "Blind Man Driving." Featured are Virginia Tech’s Dennis Hong, Paul D’Angio and Ryan Colby, with TORC Technologies’ Jesse Hurdus, and the National Federation of the Blind’s Marc Maurer, Kevan Worley and Mark Riccobono, among others.

Image: Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of Blind, enjoys a quiet moment surrounded by his supporters at a press conference dedicated to the Blind Driver Challenge. Mr. Maurer is featured in this Motorweek segment. photo by Steven D. A. Mackay.

From "": Road ready?: Blind Driver Challenge creates optimism

TUPELO - The idea of a blind man driving may seem like a fantasy or a stunt, but Ken Eskew has seen it happen.

In January, he drove to Daytona, Fla., to witness the National Federation of the Blind's Blind Driver Challenge.

"I drove 1,800 miles round trip to see that car in action," Eskew, 50, said.

A blind man took the wheel of a Ford Escape equipped with non-visual technology, and drove a mile and a half around the Daytona International Speedway track.

With help from a system developed by Virginia Tech and TORC Technologies, the driver used cues... Read more.

Image: National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute Executive Director and BDC driver Mark Riccobono takes on the famed Daytona track. Photo by Suzanne Shaffer, an art director at the National Federation of the Blind.

Blind Driver Challenge appears on NBC's "Today Show"

On a deeply frigid February 23, 2011, Jenna Wolfe of the Sunday edition of "Today Show" visited the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg, Va. Her mission: Learn about and then test-drive the second-generation Blind Driver Challenge vehicle known as “ANDREA” (Automobile for Non-visual Driving Research, Education and Advancement). How did she do? Watch this clip to see. Featured in the spot are Blind Driver Challenge partners National Federation of the Blind’s Mark Riccobono, Virginia Tech’s Dennis Hong and Paul D’Angio, and TORC Technologies’ Jesse Hurdus, among others. Note: A brief commercial may play before the feature.

Image: Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind's Jernigan Institute, and Dennis Hong, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia, in December 2010 at Danville, Va. Photo by Steven D. A. Mackay.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CPD's Newsflash profiles Sachin Pavithran

From the the Center for Persons with Disabilities' NewsFlash: "CPD employee was involved in the creation of a prototype car that the blind can drive"

The CPD's Sachin Pavithran is the CPD's assistive technology specialist and law and policy coordinator. He is also a member of the research and development committee of the National Federation of the Blind—and because of that connection he was involved in the development of a car that can be driven by someone who is blind.

The vehicle, a modified Ford Escape, debuted last month at the Rolex 24 in a pre-race demonstration at Daytona. Driver Mark Anthony Riccobono not only navigated 1.5 miles of the course but also avoided obstacles... Read more

Image from CPD's NewsFlash website