No, you don’t need to stay off the streets. For one, Mark Riccobono will be driving on a closed-circuit course at Daytona International Speedway. But the bigger reason is that Riccobono, despite being legally blind, should be perfectly safe behind the wheel of Ford’s new blind-accessible vehicle.
It’s the result of years of hard work since the National Federation of the Blind called for a car that blind people could drive back in the mid-2000s.
The NFB Blind Driver Challenge has found a winner with Virginia Tech and its Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory. They created a way to use “nonvisual interface technologies” allowing a person with no sense of sight – but all other faculties in check – to drive.
It’s now ready for the world to see, as Riccobono will drive a Ford Escape hybrid equipped with the new technology tomorrow at Daytona International Speedway. It’ll be part of the pre-race activities for the Rolex 24 event.
“I have been blind since the age of five, so I never got to try for a driver’s license or drive a car without another person telling me which way to steer. The NFB’s leadership in the Blind Driver Challenge™ has taken something almost everyone believed was an impossible dream and turned it into reality. I am looking forward to getting behind the wheel and demonstrating to the world that being blind does not prevent me from engaging in any activity I choose as long as I am able to get the information I need. This will be a truly historic occasion for my blind brothers and sisters and for America, and I am humbled and proud to be part of it,” said Riccobono in a statement.
The NFB is beaming with pride over the accomplishment. The group’s president Dr. Marc Maurer said, “Capacity, imagination, and determination are all that is needed, and blind people have all of these qualities.”