I have been blessed with all five of my senses, so I cannot even begin to imagine what it might be like to live without my vision. The vision-impaired often don’t get to experience many of the things those in the seeing world do. For example, the blind can’t drive cars for obvious reasons, but thanks to a brand new high-tech car, that could change in the near future.
The National Federation of the Blind teamed up with Virginia Tech to show off a new prototype vehicle equipped with non-visual interface technology. This amazing new technology is designed to receive sensors about the driver’s surroundings, including neighboring traffic and objects, that allow him to maneuver the vehicle accordingly.
A lot of blind people I know have often expressed their concerns over the way society views them, including impressions that the blind cannot make valuable contributions in their respective communities.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind says, “We’re moving away from the theory that blindness ends the capacity of human beings to make contributions to society.”
Maurer’s experimentation began about ten years ago, when he first began the federation. People thought his ideas were far-fetched and impossible, but great visionaries are often met with trepidation. He had difficulty in some instances raising funding, for what people believed was an impossible idea. As we’ve seen time and again, it’s the so-called crazy ideas that make the most headway, and now Maurer’s vision is about to become a reality.
Interface technology includes devices like the AirPix tablet, which is approximately the size of a piece of notebook paper and filled with air holes that map the driver’s surroundings with puffs of compressed air. Another device called the DriveGrip fits on the hands like a glove and provides knuckle vibrations that signal the driver when she needs to make a turn.
This technology, which could eventually give blind people the opportunity to operate a motor vehicle, also has future safety implications for seeing drivers as well. Imagine the life-saving capabilities of technology of this caliper, improving reaction times for drivers and helping them avert accidents.
Experts say it will take a long time before society gets a grip on the idea of blind people joining the traffic circle, but it’s just another example as far as I’m concerned of the miracles of modern science. They continue to make the supposed impossible possible and that’s a beautiful thing.