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Google's self-driving car facilitates blind drivers

( 02/04/2012 )

Google has been testing its self-driving car by giving blind drivers and opportunity to get behind the wheel.

Head of the Santa Clara Valley Blind Centre Steve Mahan, who is 95 per cent blind, drove the converted Toyota Prius in late January for a routine trip to the shops, according to the
Daily Mail.

Google announced the project in late 2010 and received a patent on the system last December. The company's autonomous driving technology utilises radar sensors, video cameras and laser range finders to navigate. The company said they were confident enough after many thousands of miles of testing to let Mr Mahan use the car.

"There's much left to design and test, but we've now safely completed more than 200,000 miles of computer-led driving, gathering great experiences and an overwhelming number of enthusiastic supporters," Google wrote in a Google + post.

The development of the car has been welcomed by blind people in the US.

"The concept of it is pretty awesome,' Eric Bridges, government affairs director for the American Council of the Blind, told Fox News.

The new technology would allow the blind to become independent motorists and car insurance policy holders.

"There are a lot of hoops that are going to need to be jumped through in the years to come: Things like driver's licenses and regulatory stuff to allow these vehicles to traverse roadways. But the technology is absolutely intriguing," he added.

Mr Bridges, who is completely blind, tested the car last year when on a visit to Google's Californian headquarters.

"We had it out on the Interstate and allowed it to take over. It was pretty amazing, going in between lanes, making sure there was enough distance between us and the car next to us in another lane."

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