December 14, 2016

21ST CENTURY HEADLINES: Blind man sets out alone in Google’s driverless car.

A blind man has successfully traveled around Austin — unaccompanied — in a car without a steering wheel or floor pedals, Google announced Tuesday.

After years of testing by Google engineers and employees, the company’s new level of confidence in its fully autonomous technology was described as a milestone.

“We’ve had almost driverless technology for a decade,” said Google engineer Nathaniel Fairfield. “It’s the hard parts of driving that really take the time and the effort to do right.”

Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, was the first non-Google employee to ride alone in the company’s gumdrop-shaped autonomous car.

“It is like driving with a very good driver,” Mahan said. “If you close your eyes when you’re riding with somebody, you get a sense of whether this is a good driver or whether they’re not. These self-driving cars drive like a very good driver.”

The rise of driverless cars will mean a new era of freedom for the blind, the elderly, and people with other sorts of disabilities.

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