Advocates for the blind want to make sure that companies consider people who can't see as the firms develop this technology.

Autonomous vehicles have the potential of revolutionizing driver safety in a few years by being an extra set of eyes for motorists. The tech could even grant mobility to people with disabilities that don’t let them control conventional vehicles – like the blind. Advocate groups for those who can’t see are urging developers of self-driving systems to consider the needs of folks without sight when designing these next-generation systems.

“For the first time, they will be able to get to school, work, and community activities independently.”


The Perkins School for the Blind in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the places pushing to make sure self-driving cars benefit those who can’t see. “Autonomous vehicles will be transformative for people who are blind,” Dave Power, the school’s president and CEO, told the MIT Technology Review. “For the first time, they will be able to get to school, work, and community activities independently.”

The school recently hosted a demonstration from an autonomous vehicle start-up called Optimus Ride. The company is a spin-off from work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it’s developing tech for self-driving electric vehicles. While at Perkins, the firm setup a short test course that showed its systems to the blind and gathered input from them – like making sure vehicles have space for service dogs.

Advocates want to make sure that blind people have full access to self-driving technology. According to the MIT Technology Review, some groups are focusing on making sure legislation doesn’t ban people with limited sight from using driverless tech. Other organizations are pushing for blind-friendly systems as a default part of autonomous vehicle interfaces.

MIT is world famous for coming up with technical innovations, and that applies to autonomous driving, too. Earlier this year, students there in partnership with Ford came up with a driverless ridesharing service that used electric shuttles. They planned to let people on campus hail a ride with a smartphone app.

The video below offers a glimpse at some of what Optimus Ride is developing. The clip also shows some of their past experience while at MIT including a city car and participation in the DARPA Urban Challenge.

Source: MIT Technology Review