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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.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 17 Comments
      ASR
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am legally blind, and thanks to my low vision specialist and the Indiana BMV, I have been driving for almost 17 years, racking up approximately 300K miles with only two minor traffic violations and two parking lot dings to my name. I use a special pair of glasses, manufactured by Ocutec, that incorporate a manually-focused telescopic lens above my carrier lenses. While driving, I tilt my head down slightly to sight distant vehicles, objects, pedestrians, traffic lights and traffic conditions through my scope. The scope is used only about 3-5% of the time, and should never be employed while going through intersections or other areas where peripheral vision is crucial. With the advent of other assistive technologies, both sighted and low-vision drivers will benefit in terms of safety, security and greater independence. Ironically, my first car after obtaining my license was a 1993 Metro, while unable to get out of it's own way, was equipped with a 5-speed and provided me with valuable lessons about driving dynamics, performance (what little there was), and driver vigilance. More info on bioptic driving can be found at biopticdrivingUSA.com, The Low Vision Gateway (Lowvision.org) and the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) (albinism.org).
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      m
      • 3 Years Ago
      What exactly did the transmission have to do with it? Why was that the headline?
      Kevin Hooker
      • 3 Years Ago
      For every person (blind or seeing) that you teach to drive a stick, there is one less distracted driver on the road. Thank you Ford.
        m
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Kevin Hooker
        As someone that swore off torque converters years ago and has vowed never to have one in his family again, I feel somewhat qualified to comment. I can be just as distracted while operating any of the vehicles I own than somebody driving an automatic. It's all about the driver and his level of respect for the task of driving. If he has too little respect for it, he will become distracted and cause problems. Whether or not he has to move a shifter around every once in a while makes no difference. Once it's truly learned, it requires no focus.
          Krishan Mistry
          • 3 Years Ago
          @m
          Still kinda hard to send a text message while operating a stick. But you make a point.
        Rampant
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Kevin Hooker
        Wait, what?
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Krishan Mistry
        • 3 Years Ago
        Well obviously the Mustang has a manual. And just about every other ford also has a manual option. Troll harder.
        Redline
        • 3 Years Ago
        O HAI MR TROLL XD
        Ace Convoy
        • 3 Years Ago
        2/3 of Ford's offer stick Moron Fiesta Focus Mustang Escape F-150 F-2...Super- Duty
        RZ-Civic
        • 3 Years Ago
        Oh please! I don't recall GMC offering any stick shift models. Not to mention, there is no stick shift option available for the Malibu, but there is for the Fusion, although only for the base model now. Still, this article is sad in which North Americans shy away from stick shifts, but even blind people in Europe can use them? :(
      DrEvil
      • 3 Years Ago
      Its only a matter of time before one of these blind folks decides to go for a real-world joyride.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Krishan Mistry
        • 3 Years Ago
        With a name like RunYouOver, I am really surprised at your mentality towards endangering others lives with your arrogance. /sarcasm IF blind people ever take to the road, it is in specially adapted vehicles that practically drive themselves. The same cant be said to someone too drunk to see out of the window straight or so busy texting they dont even bother looking out.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Krishan Mistry
          [blocked]
      Jarda
      • 3 Years Ago
      OT, seems like Mustang has nice appearance in the Drive movie (8.8/10 on imdb) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780504/ http://youtu.be/IbYhofSkT-Y
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