by Ryan Meehan
I have to begin this article by saying that there are plenty of people who can see but can’t drive for shit that currently have driver’s licenses and use them regardless of their lack of brainpower.
So Hudson calls me this morning and alerts me to this story about how a college professor is claiming that he has developed technology that will allow blind people to drive a car.
This stems from a challenge issued in 2004 by the National Federation for the Blind (who I’m assuming is probably very easy to steal from) that urged robotics instructors at major educational institutions all across America to develop not a car that blind people could drive, but instead create “non-visual interfaces that would allow a blind person to actually make driving decisions”.
But of course there are always overachievers. Like Dr. Dennis Hong, Director of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech, who apparently took this as a challenge to design a killing machine.
According to hothardware.com, The plan is to “demonstrate the vehicle, a modified Ford Escape hybrid, at the famous Daytona International Speedway track next year, as part of the pre-race activities at the 2011 Rolex 24 on January 29, 2011. Last summer, the team demonstrated a first-generation prototype, a modified dune buggy”
Thank God. And here I was worried about safety. At least they are debuting it ON A TRACK AT A NASCAR RACE. And a dune buggy? Let’s worry about driving blind on flat land first before we end up with a Special Olympics X Games.
And how will this work? GPS? And what about updated construction zones? Do we even want to get started on all of this?
Funny story: My parents went to Arizona and were up in the mountains. While on the way up, their GPS kept saying: “Turn right. Turn right. You missed your turn…” Of course to the right of them was a huge cliff. Can we trust this to guide blind people around a country where the interstate system changes almost daily? bonus fact: They never turned right.
We here at FOH have more questions: Like, would they be required to drive only if another passenger was present? And given the number of poor drivers on the road, how in the world would you ever enforce that?
Look, I have nothing against rights for the disabled. I’m all about people with disabilities having the same rights that we do in most cases AND I think that they are entitled to having most of those rights. But eventually the safety of the majority of citizens has to hold some water somewhere, right? You have to be able to draw the line somewhere.
Someday we might have technology that is so precise and accurate that we would be able to allow blind people to drive safely. But those days are a ways away.
In the meantime, maybe first we could find a cure for the common cold?
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