Ford recently invited 30 visually-impaired individuals to its Merkenic Development Center test track in Cologne, Germany to put them behind the wheel for a few high-speed exercises. The program was designed to give the disabled individuals a better understanding of how vehicles behave in traffic and how they react to driver input at speed.
According to Ford, since the blind rely on sound to gauge how fast a vehicle is approaching, they may not always calculate accurately. Ford allowed the individuals to build up speed with the help of a driving instructor, and the company says that the fastest driver of the day ratcheted the vehicle all the way to 74 miles per hour.
The blind weren't just behind the wheel of vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions, either. In many cases, participants had never driven a manual transmission before, but the instructors said that they took to the mechanics quicker than most licensed drivers. Being forced to listen to the engine and feel the vehicle under you likely goes a long way toward improving your third-pedal learning curve.
This isn't Ford's first foray into helping blind people live their dream of driving. In 2009, the automaker put Roger Keeney who has been blind since 1990, behind he wheel of a brand new 2010 Mustang convertible, which he then proceeded to have quite a bit of fun with... as you can see in the included image gallery.
Ford says that with the advent of radar-based driving aids, it could be possible to help the visually-impaired drive on their own in the near future. Head over to The Ford Story for the full tale.