By next year, The National Federation for the Blind and Virginia Tech will be demonstrating the use of some new technology they have partnered to create: A car for the blind. The car has technology called "nonvisual interfaces" that uses sensors to let a blind person drive by transmitting information about the car's surroundings in a nonvisual way. Whether or not the car ever makes it to the market, many agree that the work on it has been an important and inspiring reminder to dream big and challenge assumptions about what's possible.
Work on this vehicle began in 2007 when Virginia Tech entered a Defense Department contest to build a driverless vehicle. The team came up with some really creative technology for sensors that perceive traffic and avoid crashes. The National Federation for the Blind got involved in adapting the technology for a driver without sight. Here's what you should know about the new technology:
- One interface uses gloves that vibrate over the knuckles. The vibrations signal to the driver when and where to turn.
- Another interface is a tablet with multiple air holes, almost like those found on an air hockey game. Air shooting out of the holes tells the driver about his or her surroundings, essentially creating a map of the objects around a vehicle.
- The technology could also be helpful on existing vehicles to make them safer.
What can you do?
Be careful not to make assumptions about what people can or cannot do, especially in an age with technology as cool as this. Learn some etiquette about how to interact with people with disabilities.