Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Ready or Not, Here I Come! Fulfilling My Dream to Drive

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Ready or Not, Here I Come! Fulfilling My Dream to Drive

Article excerpt

As a congenitally blind person who believes life should be rived to the fullest, I have always wanted to learn to drive. Until now, the possibility of a blind person driving has been what one might call science fiction. However, this is no longer the case. As a result of the vision of National Federation of the Blind (NFB) President Marc Maurer and the work of the NFB Jemigan Institute, the limits of many technologies are being explored in order to work toward making the dream of a car blind people can drive a reality.

You may have heard or read about NFB's collaboration with the researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, College of Engineering (Virginia Tech) to produce a car that blind people can drive. It is not a fully autonomous vehicle, but rather one in which a blind driver can make decisions. No single technology is sufficient to give a blind driver enough information to drive a car independently, so there are several nonvisual technologies employed by the car that are designed to relay information to the driver in a clear, accurate, and timely manner.

While I was at the recent 2010 NFB national convention in Dallas, Texas, I took the opportunity to experience several of the car's technologies, including a computer-simulated racetrack that I drove around. Preparing for my drive, I sat in a chair and was given a pair of fingerless gloves to wear, similar to those used in weight training. These gloves had tiny motors on the tops of the fingers that gently vibrated to let me know which way and to what degree to turn. The object was to drive around the track with virtually no vibrations on any fingers.

I gripped the steering wheel and began my drive around the track. As I approached a right turn, the index finger on my right hand vibrated, indicating that I should turn the wheel to the right. …

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