blind_html Fwd: [nagdu] Blind-Drivable Car at Daytona - its inventions worked

  • From: Nimer Jaber <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html <blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2011 13:10:35 -0600

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Rovig, Lorraine" <LRovig@xxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2011 11:01:44 -0800
Subject: [nagdu] Blind-Drivable Car at Daytona - its inventions worked
To: "NAGDU Mailing List,        the National Association of Guide Dog Users"

Correct, there was no strip on the road to enable the driver to know
where to drive. Here is an article (and its URL) that was written by
an AP reporter that describes how the blind driver knew what was ahead
of him.

Blind driver to debut new technologies at Daytona

[photo described: Mark Riccobono climbs into a vehicle to test
nonvisual technologies Wednesday Jan. 26, 2011.]
Fri Jan 28, 11:11 AM EST

It's a cloudy morning at Daytona International Speedway, but Mark
Riccobono can't tell, nor does it really matter to him.

He walks up to the driver's side of a black, Ford Escape Hybrid parked
on the start-finish line, opens the door, sits down and adjusts his
seat. After a few minutes the car revs up and takes off.

None of that's unusual at one of the meccas of motorsports racing,
except for one thing: Riccobono is blind.

Saturday, Riccobono will take part in a public demonstration, driving
independently with the help of new nonvisual technology and a
specially modified car. The event, spearheaded by the the National
Federation of the Blind, is part of the pre-race activities of
Saturday's Rolex 24 event at Daytona. Riccobono will drive a portion
of the same course as the drivers in the race.

"I pretty much shut out the idea that driving was possible, because I
didn't want to focus on that aspect of something I couldn't do," said
Riccobono, 34, who has been legally blind since age 5 and was selected
from a group of test drivers to be behind the wheel Saturday. "But I
think this project is a clear example that when you dream big and put
your heart and resources into it, you get to unimagined places."

The NFB, an advocacy group of more than 50,000 members, hatched the
idea a decade ago.

In 2004 it began the Blind Driver Challenge through its Jernigan
Institute. The challenge encouraged partnerships with universities and
manufacturers to create technology that would enable a blind driver to
safely operate a vehicle.
Saturday's event has been in the developmental phase for the past
three years thanks to the NFB's partnership with Virginia Tech's
College of Engineering and TORC Technologies. The students developed
the equipment Riccobono will use. TORC integrated those into a working

Several Virginia Tech students teamed with TORC and won $500,000 when
they placed third in a 2007 competition put on by the U.S. Defense
Department to build a fully robotic vehicle. So when Dr. Dennis Hong,
director of Tech's Robotics and Mechanics Laboratory (RoMeLa), heard
about NFB's challenge, he thought it was a no-brainer to get involved.

"We said, 'Hey, we already have a fully-autonomous vehicle, how
difficult would it be to put a person inside?'" Hong said. "We
couldn't have been more wrong. They did not want a vehicle to drive a
blind person around. They wanted a vehicle that a blind person could
make active decisions in and actually drive the vehicle. So we had to
start from scratch."

Hong said the biggest challenge was figuring out a way to convey
real-time information to a driver who can't see. They came up with a
combination of mounted laser and camera sensors around the vehicle,
which scan the environment and feed information to sensors worn by the

Working with just $5,000 in initial funding, the first vehicle they
built in 2008 converted a dune buggy they bought on eBay for $2,000.
That car featured vibrating chairs and vests and was debuted in the
summer of 2009 during a program the NFB held for 175 high school-age
blind students. The BDC is now funded through grants.

The Ford Motor Co.-made Escape Hybrid that will be used Saturday is
fitted with more elaborate lasers and a camera system designed by TORC
that will react with the new DriveGrip and SpeedStrip devices the
Virginia Tech students designed.

DriveGrip consists of two gloves that send vibrations over the
knuckles to tell the driver how much to turn the wheel. SpeedStrip is
a cushion down the back and legs of the driver which tell them how
much to accelerate.

"One of the main things I want to do is build technology that helps
society," said Paul D'Angio, 23, the lead Virginia Tech grad student
on the project. "You can work with the military and make plenty of
awesome technology, but it won't help people until years later ...This
is something happening now."

Anil Lewis, the NFB's director of strategic communications, trained
alongside Riccobono to drive the Escape. He didn't lose his sight
until age 25 when he developed an incurable form of blindness called
retinitis pigmentosa. Having learned to drive as a sighted person, he
said relearning to drive blind wasn't a big difference.

"It's very close to the same kind of learning curve as a sighted
person learning to drive," said Lewis, 46. "You learn different
techniques, but as you drive you get more comfortable. ... After a
while it gets kind of second-nature."

Riccobono, now the director of the Jernigan Institute, was born with
aniridia, a congenital disease in which a person is born without an
iris in one or both eyes.

With only 10 percent of normal vision at age 5, he continued to lose
vision throughout his childhood. He lost all of the vision in his left
eye in the eighth grade. Now 34, he's also lost most of the vision in
his right eye, having only light perception of colors and shapes.

Now, Riccobono will be helping break new technological ground. Though,
he admits, preparing society for a true blind driver will be a bigger
"Hardly anybody in the world believes a blind person will ever drive,"
he said. "It's going to be a lot of work to convince them that we can
actually pilot a vehicle that is much more complex and has much more
risk. Now we have to convince society that this demonstration is not
just a stunt. It's real. It's dynamic research that's doing great

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

-----Original Message-----
From: nagdu-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx [mailto:nagdu-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx] On
Behalf Of David Andrews
Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2011 12:24 PM
To: NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users
Subject: Re: [nagdu] Blind-Drivable Car at Convention

While I could be wrong -- I am pretty sure there is no strip.  First,
I doubt Daytona Speedway would allow something to be put down, and
there wasn't time to put it down and take it up, among race
preparation etc.  Secondly, one of the systems on the car is called
"Drive Grips" or something like that, gloves that help you steer by
vibrating across your hands in the directions you need to go.


At 02:18 PM 2/1/2011, you wrote:
>I did not hear anything  about needing a strip on the road  or anything like
>that to tell you the truth.
>Albert J. Rizzi, M.Ed.
>My Blind Spot, Inc.
>90 Broad Street - 18th Fl.
>New York, New York  10004
>PH: 917-553-0347
>Fax: 212-858-5759
>"The person who says it cannot be done, shouldn't interrupt the one who is
>doing it."
>Visit us on Facebook LinkedIn
>-----Original Message-----
>From: nagdu-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx [mailto:nagdu-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
>Of Cindy Ray
>Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2011 3:13 PM
>To: NAGDU Mailing List,the National Association of Guide Dog Users
>Subject: Re: [nagdu] Blind-Drivable Car at Convention
>There are probably plenty of software issues to iron out. Also, as I
>understand it, mostly the car has to drive on a strip that heops with the
>sensors, but I could be wrong. Blind Bargains has a podcast of the drive,
>complete with the crowd there, race announcers, and all, and a press
>conference. I think it is though it could be .org.

nagdu mailing list
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for nagdu:

nagdu mailing list
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for nagdu:
To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to
with unsubscribe in the subject line.
To access the archives, please visit:


Other related posts:

  • » blind_html Fwd: [nagdu] Blind-Drivable Car at Daytona - its inventions worked - Nimer Jaber