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by Tim Beissmann

A blind man has successfully piloted Google’s autonomous car on public streets, bringing the dream of driving closer than ever for vision-impaired people.

Google recently put legally blind Californian man Steve Mahan behind the wheel of its self-driving car.

Without requiring any driver input, Google’s autonomous Toyota Prius drove Mahan from his house through a restaurant drive-through, to the dry cleaner and then back home.

As the video shows, the self-driving car operates at the same speed as regular vehicles and waits at stop signs until the coast is clear, following all the road rules along the carefully programmed drive route.

Google described the drive as a technical experiment, but insists it gives a “promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met”.

 

Google clearly has high ambitions for its autonomous vehicle technology. After completing more than 320,000km of computer led prototype driving since 2010, the technology giant labelled Mahan ‘self-driving car user #0000000001’.

With 95 per cent of his sight gone, Mahan is excited about the freedom that self-driving cars could give vision-impaired people in the future.

“There are some places you cannot go, some things that you really cannot do,” he said.

“Where this would change my life is to give me the independence and the flexibility to go the places I want to go and need to go when I need to do those things.”

Last month, we reported that the US state of Nevada is developing legislation for autonomous vehicles. Under the proposed rules, drivers would still need to be licenced and would not be able to drink drive, but would be able to use their mobile phones to make calls and send texts.




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