Google Car

Welcome back to our little corner of the Internet!

We’ve talked a lot about tools and devices specifically designed for visually impaired people, but we cannot lose sight of other pieces of research and technology that are developped for a more general audience, but which might provide some – if not a lot – of use for the visually impaired.

One such research topic might be Google’s driverless car. The project is designed with safer traffic in mind for all audiences, but it would also have a specifically great advantage for blind people: they would be able to have a personal vehicle that can be controlled without having another person to drive it for you. This would work as a major “enabling” tool for the mobility of blind and otherwise visually impaired people. The reactions of a legally blind person testing the vehicle can be seen in this movie:

Even though many argue that in order to be more ecologically responsible it is better to leave personal vehicles behind in favor of public transportation, which is already very much accessible for blind people, this evolution does not seem to be happening at a rapid enough pace for the driverless personal vehicle to be useless for blind people. Also, considering that this innovartion, when it happens, will spread to more and more people, the driverless car will actually counteract stigmatizing, which might happen when using other types of tools for the visually impaired, as one of our readers pointed out in the comments section of one of ours previous posts.

Don’t take it for an innovation that might happen very soon though: there are still many legal problems with allowing a driverless vehicle to be produced.This is mostly because jurisdiction usually focusses on the driver of a vehicle, which would obviously be a problem in this case.

But of course, as promising as this technology may look, and although Google is well on its way to prove the opposite, there might always be some imperfections that lead to faulty behavior. In this case, vision would once more become a useful tool for the user to correct the car. So far however, no accidents with driverless cars (in driverless mode) have been recorded. Do you think, based on this, that this is a legitimate concern? Or do you have an opinion on Google’s project or driverless cars in general? Let us know in the comments!


Further info:


2 responses to “Google Car

  1. it’s indeed something for the future, I do believe this will one day be common practice but like everything it will take time to change people’s opinions around the topic. Once everyone has the google car or something similar the possibilities become endless… speed control in traffic jams or at any time, zipping, …

    • koenraadvanhoutte

      Exactly my thoughts. The benefits will overcome the possible downsides by a great margin once the vehicles are properly tested and perfectioned. However, in order for people to adopt the idea of having a driverless car, the ‘psychological inertia’ of always driving your own car, and having your parents and grandparents who did it before you will have to be overcome. People are naturally reluctant to change ‘things that work’, and driving your car is one of those things. Not to mention that many people might feel emasculated by having an AI who can do this daily task better than them, or that they might feel a part of their freedom is being taken away etc.
      A change like this needs time. And unfortunately, many of the benefits you list, like automated general speed control (which I assume you were referring to), will only be perfected when the last manual driver changes his car to an automated one.

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