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Video: Blind Driver Challenge at Daytona

The Blind Driver Challenge is the National Federation of the Blind's mission to develop non-visual interface technologies that will allow a blind person to safely and independently operate a car.    

The challenge was issued in 2004. Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering was the first, and remains the only, academic institution to take up that call. 

The gist of the challenge is not developing an autonomous car that drives a blind person around, but about developing an interface that can convey real-time information about driving conditions to blind drivers so they can think through the driving process and safely maneuver the car.

Dennis Hong, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, has led Virginia Tech's efforts in collaboration with Blacksburg-based TORC Technologies to develop two modified Ford Escape SUVs.

The new prototype interface made its public debut Jan. 29, 2011, preceding the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. The demonstration of a blind person driving independently on the inner track is historic, according to the National Federation of the Blind.

“With just a little help from technology, it is incredible what the blind can accomplish,” Hong said.

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