What We Can Learn From Blind Drivers

By Ford Social Member

It’s easy to take for granted some of life’s pleasures, such as driving. We complain about congestion, road rage, gas prices and all the other negative aspects. But at the heart of driving is driving, something that for many of us is exhilarating, pleasurable and flat-out fun.

So imagine if tomorrow you suddenly were without sight. You would miss literally seeing your family, your friends and the world around you. However, it would also mean you could no longer experience the thrill of being behind the wheel.

Ford recently gathered 30 visually impaired people to its test track at the Merkenich Development Center in Cologne, Germany, to do something many of them thought they would never do again: drive a car. With the guidance of professional instructors, the group took on the high-speed straightaways and corners. The fastest driver reached 74 mph.

The high-speed driving may have been the highlight, but there was a serious goal for the day: helping the blind and otherwise visually impaired gain a greater understanding of vehicles and traffic in a way that can help them in their daily lives. Ford hoped to learn valuable lessons as well. “In traffic situations, people with visual impairments orient themselves using sounds, so it’s easy for them to misjudge size and speed of cars,” explained Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, Vice President, Legal, Governmental and Environmental Affairs for Ford of Europe. “We want to help resolve such problems by encouraging greater participation in traffic that can leave us all more enlightened and confident.” The aim was also to raise awareness of their difficulties among sighted drivers.

Instructors were impressed by how quickly the participants took to the controls, such as the clutch and gearshift. In many cases, that happened significantly faster than sighted student drivers. In fact, with new technology developing rapidly – such as camera- and radar-based safety systems, advanced satellite navigation systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications – the possibilities that the blind and visually impaired could one drive are increasing, and Ford predicts advanced driver assistance systems could one day lead to greater independence for these customers.

Lushe Grabanica, 28, from Treffelhausen, applied to join the event on Facebook and came away thrilled with the experience of driving.  “Driving a car means freedom to me. Usually I sit in the passenger seat, where I also appreciate the experience. But steering a car on my own feels much better and gives me the chance to really get involved. And thanks to the event, my confidence in drivers has increased.”

To learn a related story and watch video of Roger Keeney, who has been blind for more than 20 years, live out his dream of driving a Ford Mustang – including doing donuts and reaching 90 mph – click here .
Cody Woodworth 07/17/2011
Very Nice Ford!
Denise 07/16/2011
Gary Duprez 07/15/2011
I'm pretty sure Chevrolet and other manufacturers are testing this technology already. You'll know which cars they are by looking at the license plate. The plates say........ NEW JERSEY!
Danny Gardner 07/15/2011
At least it would save on drag when u remove rear view mirrors cause they wont need em!
Scott Griffin 07/14/2011
A seeing eye car ???
Richard O'Rourke 07/14/2011
People who have good eye sight cant drive any way so why not
Michael Calkins 07/14/2011
I'm a Ford supporter, but I think they need to focus efforts elsewhere...The blind cant even possess a drivers license, so whats the point?
Kevin Meier 07/14/2011
how to listen
Lakisha Canady-Toussaint 07/14/2011
YAY Ford. Nicely combining practical information with "miracle" thrill.
Creed Crutchfield 07/14/2011
My Mistake, clearly they already do, I saw 12 of them on my way through town this afternoon =0)
Creed Crutchfield 07/14/2011
That they shouldn't be driving?
Raul Albor 07/14/2011
Go ford!!!
Raul Albor 07/14/2011
I wish my car would drive me anywhere id just blaze the whole way to my destination!!
Rob Ammerman 07/14/2011
They should make something for oblivious drivers. Maybe someday, they too will be able to actually drive.
Jackie G. Morgan 07/14/2011
I'm scared
Cannie Annie 07/14/2011
First thought was Blind and Driving just don't go together, but hey if FORD can make it happen then it's cool!
DaMontae January 07/14/2011
Will they be using sonar?
Don Bond 07/14/2011
IS that why they're putting braille on the driver's side of cars?
Martin T. Jasper 07/14/2011
We are so close to this reality considering the advancements made with Global posiTioning systems, parallel parking technology, and auto pilots in boats and aircrafts. Love
Callum Burnside 07/14/2011
I think Audi is better that might be because I own one
James J O'Brien 07/14/2011
They can say I didn't see you and get away with it
Darcell Moore 07/14/2011
To move out of they're way!!
Victor Kalu 07/14/2011
dats weird.
Gabriel Andy Mullin 07/14/2011
I think the first thing you would learn is that they make terrible drivers.
Victor Jonathan Betancourt 07/14/2011
I'd imagine the heightened senses would be great for determing the actual effectiveness of NVH fixes
Angelo Rossi 07/14/2011
Our political leaders are blind, and they drive!
Dave Evans 07/14/2011
Um... this is ridiculous. Any chance we could possibly get back to talking about Ford's cars instead of everything but???
Linda Scharf Brazier 07/14/2011
Linda Scharf Brazier 07/14/2011
Omg that would be great
Christopher Busch 07/14/2011
Blind drivers... does anyone else see a potential problem?
Mark Sevenfold 07/14/2011
Why the Blind Make Good Drivers
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