free debate

July 28, 2009

Driving Blind

When learning to drive, I fought the idea as much as I could. I was scared of the idea of driving, and really didn't want to get behind the wheel. It didn't help that everyone I talked to immediately launched into stories of various accidents and close calls they've had while driving. After reading this story, however, I realized that my issues with earning a driver's license were nothing compared to some peoples'. After all, how can you drive if you're blind?

A new technology from the Virginia Tech School of Engineering may open up the possibility of driving to those that can't see. Using laser sights, a voice command interface, a vibrating guide vest,and other innovative technology, a retrofitted dune buggy can give a blind individual precise instructions to drive. As the Mythbusters proved, it is possible for a passenger to give good enough instructions to help someone blind drive without crashing. However, these instructions can be too vague. For instance, "Turn left." Does that mean turn left sharply, right now, or to turn left gradually in 10 feet? The technology in the dune buggy is precise enough to always give detailed driving instructions. This is a first step to not only letting the visually impaired drive, but also to other technologies to improve their options in day-to-day life.

Credit: Science Daily- Blind Can Take Wheel With Newly Designed Vehicle
See the Mythbusters do it at Discovery Channel