Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blind man (more or less) goes for a spin in a Google driver-less car

Anyone who watched the "Betty White's Off Their Rockers" preview might recall the blind man getting into a car and then driving away. As shocked as passersby might be, that actually happened earlier this week: one of Google's revolutionary self-driving cars took a legally blind man for a spin.

Morgan Hill, Calif. resident Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, can be seen below being taken for a ride in one of Google's self-driving Toyota Prius vehicles. Google released the video to celebrate 200,000 miles of safely-completed computer-lead driving.

In the video, Mahan says that "Ninety-five percent of my vision is gone, I'm well past legally blind. Where this would change my life is to give me the independence and flexibility to go the places I both want to go and need to go, when I need to do those things."

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The car steers itself, using lasers and radar as Mahan sits in the driver's seat. There is, of course, a backup to the automated system (a person) in the passenger's seat.

You'll see him going through the drive-through of Taco Bell (surely Google could have gone through a healthier drive-thru, such as In-and-Out Burger), then takes him to the cleaners (pun intended). Mahan jokes on camera that "this is some of the best driving I've ever done."

In February, Nevada became the first state in the United States to approve self-driving cars. A California state senator is preparing a similar bill.

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