Nonvisual interface may allow blind people to drive cars

The project began in 2007, when a group of Virginia Tech researchers placed in a DARPA competition to develop a vehicle that could drive itself. Later, the same group received a grant from the National Federation of the Blind to incorporate the laser detection system that allowed the car to navigate and detect obstacles into an interface that could be understood through senses other than sight.

The new, nonvisual interfaces use a combination of tactile cues to inform the driver. One is called Drive Grip; it's a set of gloves that vibrate on various portions of the knuckles to signal the driver when it's time to turn.

The interfaces are set to be incorporated into a Ford Escape and demonstrated at the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 29, 2011. The ultimate goal is an ambitious one: the car could lead to a change in longstanding legislation that prohibits driving while blind, so long as the vehicle is equipped with the appropriate technology.

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