The Driverless Car Leading The Blind

For the past couple of years, Google has been leading the effort to create fully automated cars that drive themselves. The benefits you generally hear being touted about are related to safety and convenience:

  • car accidents are generally caused by human error
  • robots are always vigilant, while humans get easily bored when driving and are thus prone to distraction by anything at all: gadgets, eating, talking, sleeping, etc;
  • proper, robotic driving would alleviate traffic
  • your self-driving car is also your taxi and valet; plus you’ll never get a speeding ticket again
  • you could go to sleep in your car in Miami and wake up in Orlando


Blind man sitting in the driver's seat of Google's self-driving Prius


Well Google decided that wasn’t enough, and that it was time to also play up the heart-warming angle: driverless cars can also give independence to people who can’t drive. The technology isn’t quite ready for the public yet, so they shot a demo video of what things could be like, probably somewhere around 2020: a blind guy gets in his car, tells it where to go, and it takes him through the drive-thru at Taco Bell, then to pick up his dry cleaning, and on the way back home he eats his burrito.

Where this would change my life is to give me the independence and the flexibility to go to the places I both want to go and need to go, when I need to do those things. — Steve Mahan, blind test driver

What the video implies is that shut-ins would no longer have to spend all day locked in their house, be at the mercy of their friends and family, or have to resort to expensive taxis.  Besides the blind, this includes all kinds of disabled people: many of the elderly, the deaf, some of the physically handicapped, children. Wait …. children?! Ugh. Back to the drawing board…


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From Fox News, via Slashdot

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