Considerations for the Development of Non-Visual Interfaces for Driving Applications

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Virginia Tech

While haptics, tactile displays, and other topics relating to non-visual user interfaces have been the subject of a variety of research initiatives, little has been done specifically related to those for blind driving. Many automation technologies have been developed for the purpose of assisting and improving the safety of sighted drivers, but to enable a true driving experience without any sense of sight has been an essentially overlooked area of study. Since 2005, the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech has assumed the task of developing non-visual interfaces for driving through the Blind Driver Challenge®, a project funded by the National Federation of the Blind. The objective here is not to develop a vehicle that will autonomously mobilize blind people, but to develop a vehicle that a blind person can actively and independently operate based on information communicated by non-visual interfaces.

This thesis proposes some generalized considerations for the development of non-visual interfaces for driving, using the instructional interfaces developed for the Blind Driver Challenge® as a case study. A model is suggested for the function of blind driving as an open-loop control system, wherein the human is an input/output device. Further, a discussion is presented on the relationship between the bandwidth of information communicated to the driver, the amount of human decision-making involved in blind driving, and the cultivation of driver independence. The considerations proposed here are intended to apply generally to the process of non-visual interface development for driving, enabling efficient concept generation and evaluation.

blind driver, blind access technology, non-visual interfaces, kinesthetics, haptics