Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ABC News visits Youth Slam camp, takes BDC vehicles for a demo drive

The National Federation of the Blind hosted its STEM-inspired Youth Slam camp last week in Baltimore. The camp's mission, according to a NFB website: "Engage and inspire the next generation of blind youth to consider careers falsely believed to be impossible for the blind and bring a unified voice to the next generation of blind professionals."

ABC News stopped by the morning of July 22 for a demo of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicles. Later, students at the camp had the chance to ride in the cars, driven by the NFB's Mark Riccobono and Anil Lewis.

In the image above, Virginia Tech Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) Director Dennis Hong and ABC News' Juju Chang wave their hellos from one of the BDC vehicles. Chang, wearing sleeper shades, took the wheel of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle as part of a show focusing on Hong's work that will air in September.

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All photos by Steven D. A. Mackay.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wired's Autopia Blog: 'Ford Proves That Blind Drivers Can Learn A Stick Shift'

Administrator's Note: This report by "Wired" magazine talks about a separate project to help the blind drive, but mentions in detail the Blind Driver Challenge...

Ford of Europe let 30 blind and visually impaired drivers get behind the wheel at their test track in Cologne, Germany in an attempt to give blind people a better understanding of automobiles and examine how they interact with cars.

Last week’s test drives put drivers in control of all vehicle inputs, responding to the directions of a sighted driving instructor. The fastest driver got their Fiesta up to 74 mph, and Ford reported that all drivers quickly mastered the fine art of a stick shift through feel and sound.

“Driving it was not a big problem for me,” said driver Katrin Berus of Kleve, Germany. “Operating clutch and gearshift was easier than I expected.”


CNN presents TED Talk reports: 'Why we made a car for blind drivers'

Text by Dennis Hong, director of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech.

Blacksburg, Virginia (CNN) -- In our modern society, driving is really a necessity. It is a means of getting you to your destination wherever, whenever. Driving is also fun. Some people even consider it an expression of power. Most importantly, driving is really about freedom, about independence.

Sighted people, myself included, do it every day and take it for granted. Unfortunately, because of physical challenges, not everyone has the privilege to drive. My team of researchers wants to find a way to give the blind the ability to drive.

When we first announced that we were going to take up this challenge, many thought we were crazy, and most of the critics doubted that it could be done. Even some of my colleagues challenged us on the idea of developing a vehicle for the blind.


Image courtesy TED Talk