High-Tech Car Lets Blind People Drive

It's a car so advanced, a blind person can drive it.

Researchers at Virginia Tech have taken technology developed by the military and packed it onto a dune buggy that tells the driver exactly where to go.

"It was great!" exulted Wesley Majerus, an access-technology specialist with the National Federation for the Blind, according to a Virginia Tech press release.

The car has a laser range finder to estimate distance, and counts down before turns to let drivers know when to turn the wheel. A vibrating conveys other commands -- when the whole thing buzzes, it's time to slam on the brakes.

"We are not only excited about the vehicle itself, but also the potential spinoff technologies from this project that could end up helping the blind," Virginia Tech researcher Dennis Hong told Wired.com.

The ultimate goal, according to the representatives from the National Federation for the Blind: Changing street-traffic laws to let the blind drive full-time.

"Blind people have brains, the capacity to make decisions,"said Mark Riccobono, executive director of the NFB's Jernigan Institute, in the press release. "Blind people want to live independent lives -- why would they not want to drive?"

• Click here for the Virginia Tech press release.

• Click here for the Blind Driver Challenge Web site.

• Click here for Wired News' writeup.