Technology helps blind man create driving history

A blind man in the U.S. is said to have created history by driving a car around a race track in a test, which could one day lead to all visually impaired people taking to the roads, a media report said.

Mark Riccobono, 34, successfully navigated his way round the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, overtaking a van and dodging some cardboard boxes thrown in his way, the Daily Mail online reported.

His SUV was fitted with laser sensors that passed data to his hands and sent vibrating signals telling him how much to turn. The cushion on his seat was also wired into the same system and vibrated telling him to brake or accelerate.

The car was modified by students from Virginia Tech University with a “non-visual interface for a car that can convey real-time information about driving conditions to the blind.”

The test was the culmination of a decade-long project to build a car that could allow blind people to one day drive on normal streets like those without any visual impairment, the report said.

“I think this project is a clear example that when you dream big and put your heart and resources into it, you get to unimagined places. There are still psychological barriers to overcome before people accepted the idea of blind drivers on the roads with everyone else.

“Hardly anybody in the world believes a blind person will ever drive. It’s going to be a lot of work to convince them that we can actually pilot a vehicle that is much more complex and has much more risk.

“Now we have to convince society that this demonstration is not just a stunt. It’s real. It’s dynamic research that’s doing great things,” he was quoted as saying.

The National Federation for the Blind said it was a huge breakthrough. Spokesman Anil Lewis said: “We’re here making history, we’re here making sure that blind people have capacity.”


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