Sunday, August 2, 2009

The 20 blind peoples test drive student-designed car

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Several blind people were able to get behind the wheel of a new high-tech vehicle designed by Virginia Tech engineering students.

The 20 blind people took turns maneuvering the retrofitted dune buggy Friday in a parking lot at the University of Maryland. The test drive capped a National Federation for the Blind summer camp for 200 blind youth from across the country.
Blind student Addie Hagen, 16 (right) drives around a University of Maryland parking lot with Virginia Tech graduate Gregg Jannaman in College Park, Md., Friday, July 31, 2009. She is wearing headphones for verbal instructions to turn right or left and a vest that vibrates to various degrees that advises her to apply the brakes. She receives input from sensors on the vehicle. (AP Photo/The Washington Post, Gerald Martineau)

Virginia Tech was the only university to take on a 2004 challenge from the federation to build a vehicle that could let blind people drive.

The buggy they designed uses a laser sensor to figure out the road ahead. A special vibrating vest worn by drivers communicates speed & warns when to stop. And a headset relays voice commands signaling which way to turn.


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