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Blind Drivers? Virginia Tech Vehicle For Blind Gets 2010 National Instruments Award

Some people literally see beyond the limitations of others to invent and develop assistive innovations that open doors to disabled persons.  In this case, Dr. Dennis Hong,  from Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), made some in'roads' for blind persons with his invention of the world's first blind driver vehicle.

Hong and his colleagues, Greg Jannaman and Kimberly Wenger, of Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, won the National Instruments 2010 Application of the Year Award for use of the company's hardware and software to develop the semi-autonomous car.  The team used NI CompactRIO and LabVIEW software to build and program the world's first functional prototype of a blind driver vehicle.

 

Blind Driver Challenge Vehicle, driven by blind driver Addie Hagen, 16: image via National InstrumentsBlind Driver Challenge Vehicle, driven by blind driver Addie Hagen, 16: image via National Instruments  Blind Driver Challenge Vehicle, driven by blind driver Ishaan Rostogi, 15: image via National InstrumentsBlind Driver Challenge Vehicle, driven by blind driver Ishaan Rostogi, 15: image via National Instruments

 

Blind Driver Challenge Vehicle, driven by blind driver Addie Hagen, 16: image via National InstrumentsBlind Driver Challenge Vehicle, driven by blind driver Addie Hagen, 16: image via National Instruments

 

The vehicle, inspired by a challenge from the National Federation of the Blind, is the only one to have responded to the challenge thusfar. The criteria for the blind driver car were that it would safely perform fundamental driving tasks:  navigate through a curved driving course defined by a single lane of traffic cones, regulate speed within a predefined limit, and exhibit sufficient emergency-stop capability to avoid colliding with an obstacle.  The development team, including 9 Virginia Tech undergraduate students, only had $3,000 in seed money to develop the project.

To learn more about the development of this vehicle as well as the other winners and finalists of the National Instruments 2010 awards, visit National Instruments