Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Car for the Blind

PostedJanuary 8, 2012

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Anchor Lede: It may sound impossible, but engineers at Virginia Tech are designing a car for the blind. Not a car that drives itself, one in which the driver has control.

Randy Atkins: A regular car is being equipped with numerous sensors – like laser-range finders and cameras – that act like its eyes. Dennis Hong, a Virginia Tech professor, says a computer can turn that sensor data into a virtual map of the surrounding area.

Dennis Hong: The critical part is how do we convey these vast amounts of information real-time to a person, an operator, who cannot see?

Randy Atkins: Non-visual interfaces, like 3-D sound and puffs of air, give information about speed and surroundings. Other cues provide guidance, like the “drive grip.”

Dennis Hong: This is a glove that you put on your hand and there are tiny vibrating motors on the knuckle part. So depending on the pattern of the vibration, it gives instructions how to turn the steering wheel.

Randy Atkins: Hong says new technologies developed in making cars for the blind could lead to safer devices in everyone’s car. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, 103-point-5 F-M and WTOP-dot-com.