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Ford Teaches the Blind to Drive

However surprising it may seem, driving has become possible for blind people too: Ford from Europe has organized a test drive with 30 blind and visually impaired drivers in Cologne, Germany. By doing this, Ford has tried to teach these persons about driving, about how to recognize car crashes by sound and for a better understanding of their interaction with cars, from touching to hearing them.

During the tests, drivers had totally control on vehicle’s inputs as they responded to directions from professional driving instructors. The most skilled one (meaning the fastest) got a Ford Fiesta up to 74 mph. According to Ford representatives, all the drivers used only the sound and their feeling when driving the cars and they were doing great.

“In traffic situations, people with visual impairments orient themselves using sounds, so it’s easy for them to misjudge size and speed of cars. (…)We want to help resolve such problems by encouraging greater participation in traffic that can leave us all more enlightened and confident.” said Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, Ford of Europe’s VP of legal, governmental and environmental affairs.

With this test drive, the goal of teaching blind people to drive becomes even more feasible for the car industry. Even if this time human instructions were used, these results are due to the latest technologies and sophisticated sensors which have reached the point in which the sight is not essential any more for driving a car. So, the sight became dispensable, if not the driver himself. An autonomous Audi TT participated to the summit of Pikes Peak; a blind person drove a car during a lap of Daytona International Speedway by only using tactile prompts which were receiving visual information from in-car-technology – those are the proofs of the evolution of automotive industry worldwide.

According to Schneider, by following this direction in the development of auto industry, blind people could be driving cars within 15 to 20 years. This is why Ford also used this drive test as a focus groups for researching blind people’s interaction with cars and their shape (apparently, they prefer round cars rather than angular ones) and in-car controllers.

What do you think about the idea of letting blind persons drive: could this be totally safe?

[Source: Wired, Photo]

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