Blind Driver Navigates Daytona Speedway

For the first time, a blind individual drove a street vehicle in public without the assistance of a sighted person. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Blind Driver Challenge demonstration was peformed before spectators leading up to the Rolex 24 race at Daytona Speedway. Mark Anthony Riccobono, a blind executive of the NFB, successfully drove a Ford Escape around the road course section of the Speedway, avoiding obstacles. The Ford was equipped with laser range-finding sensors that conveyed information to a computer inside the vehicle, allowing it to create and constantly update a three-dimensional map of the road environment. The computer sent directions to vibrating gloves on the driver’s hands, indicating which way to steer, and to a vibrating strip on which he was seated, indicating when to speed up, slow down, or stop.

Dwight Sayer, who is blind and a member of the Ocoee Lions Club, said, “I took a test drive in the simulator in Baltimore two weeks before the debut of the Blind Driver challenge at Daytona. The interface for non-visual access to the vehicle is easy to learn and I did make the road course transit with 100% completion without any incidents or collisions. The tactile gloves and seat pads did give enough information for the drive and was really cool. This is only the beginning of what is to come in the future with the NFB on the forefront of developing technology that will truely make Blind People as independent as humanly possible.”

The Ocoee Lions Club has also been involved with sight-related activities, helping local residents with eye exams, eyeglasses and surgeries, and supporting organizations such as The Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research, Florida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Southeastern Guide Dogs and Lighthouse Central Florida.

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