Researchers Building High-Tech Car for the Blind

Comedians often make cracks at banks for including Braille on drive-through ATMs (there are number of valid reasons why they do this), but given the progress made by researchers at The National Federation of the Blind and Virginia Tech, don't assume that the driver in front of you isn't actually visually impaired.

While it may seem an unlikely scenario, the researchers are ever closer to developing a car for the blind, and in fact plan to demonstrate a prototype vehicle next year that will help those who can't see be able to drive. That's because it will come equipped with technology called "nonvisual interfaces," which use sensors to help a blind driver weave in and out of traffic and other surroundings based on information transmitted to him or her.

"We're exploring areas that have previously been regarded as unexplorable," said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation for the Blind. "We're moving away from the theory that blindness ends the capacity of human beings to make contributions to society."

While advocates for the blind consider the prospect a long shot at best, researchers hope their demonstration will challenge that notion. The demo will take place on a course near the Daytona race track, though a driver has not yet been selected.

"Some people thought I was crazy and they thought, 'Why do you want us to raise money for something that can't be done?' Others though it was a great idea," Maurer added. "Some people were incredulous. Others thought the idea was incredible."

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