Daytona Driver Is Blind
In a marketing move, to prove to the rest of the world what the future may hold in store for those that are completely blind. The National Federation for the Blind, put a blind man behind the wheel of a car at the start of the “Rolex 24″ at Daytona.
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the nation, announced that for the first time a blind individual has driven a street vehicle in public without the assistance of a sighted person. Mark Anthony Riccobono, a blind executive who directs technology, research, and education programs for the organization, was behind the wheel of a Ford Escape hybrid equipped with non-visual technology and successfully navigated 1.5 miles of the road course section of the famed track at the Daytona International Speedway.
The historic demonstration was part of pre-race activities leading up to the Rolex 24 At Daytona this morning. Mr. Riccobono not only successfully navigated the several turns of the road course but also avoided obstacles, some of which were stationary and some of which were thrown into his path at random from a van driving in front of him. Later he successfully passed the van without collision. The Ford Escape was equipped with laser range-finding censors 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.
Mr. Riccobono said: “The NFB’s leadership in the Blind Driver ChallengeT has taken something almost everyone believed was an impossible dream and turned it into reality. It was thrilling for me to be behind the wheel, but even more thrilling to hear the cheers from my blind brothers and sisters in the grandstands. The National Federation of the Blind undertook this project to show that blind people can do anything that sighted friends and colleagues can do. Today we have demonstrated that to the nation and the world.”