Blind Man Driving

George Carlin used to tell a joke, part of a routine about things you can do to bring a little of the unexpected into the lives of those around you, about his plans to one day put on some dark glasses, attach two canes to the front of his car, and "drive very rigidly." The bit worked because of the absolute absurdity of the idea of a blind man attempting to drive a car.

 (Also, Al Pacino had a blind-man behind the wheel in Scent of a Woman, although that scene was played as much for nail-biting as for laughs.)

 Anyway, the point is, this is no joke:
  First User Of Google’s Self-Driving Car Is Legally Blind 
 Google has released a video taken in January of the first user of it’s self-driving car, Daniel “Steve” Mahan, who is 95 percent blind. The video shows Steve casually sitting in the driver seat of a blue Toyota Prius outfitted with laser range finders, radar, cameras, and inertia sensors as a Google employee in the passenger seat monitors the car via laptop. With a “self-driving car” label on the bumper, the vehicle successfully zooms around town allowing Steve to pick up his dry cleaning and go through the drive-thru of a Taco Bell for lunch. Google posted the video along with news that its tricked out cars have logged 200,000 miles on the road, but makes it clear that this was merely a technical experiment and a way to let Steve experience the possibilities in autonomous driving, which someday may become a reality. 
 Stephen and I have talked a lot on FastForward Radio about why self-driving cars are inevitable. As resistant as many people will be to the idea, it comes down to safety. Eventually robo-cars will be far safer than human-drive cars and we will hit a tipping point where self-driving will become the norm. Many folks who can't currently drive will benefit from this shift. It's not just the legally blind.

There are a lot of reasons people can't get drivers licenses (or shouldn't be driving.) This technology will provide them the mobility the rest of us enjoy without even thinking about. All that, and the roads will be safer.

Live to see it.

Comments

  1. Beautiful. Before she died my grandmother shared with me her greatest fear. It wasn't death. It was the loss of freedom and mobility. She feared that she would lose the ability to take care of herself - shop for her own groceries, go to church, see friends, etc. She had many friends who had lost that ability. It was her thought that old age really gets old the day you hand your kids the car keys.

    So what happens is that elderly people really push this. They stay on the road much longer than is safe for them and the general public. This is a real problem in places where there is a large elderly population - Florida. And there's little political will to do anything about it.

    Technology to the rescue.

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