The video: On a clear and sunny day in January, Steve Mahan stepped into the driver's seat of a Toyota Prius to run errands around town. Mahan is also 95 percent blind, far past the legal driving limit for impaired vision. But the car transported him through the drive-thru of a Taco Bell and parked while he picked up his dry cleaning. The vehicle is part of Google's self-driving car project, which can chaperone passengers based on pre-programmed commands (Watch a video below). The vehicle relies on laser range finders, radar sensors, and video cameras to safely navigate roadways, without the driver ever having to take the wheel. "Look Ma, no hands and no feet!" says Mahan as the car cruises down the street. "This is some of the best driving I've ever done." Google was awarded a patent for the self-driving system in December, and Mahan is the first blind driver to test its capabilities.
The reaction: This is "pretty awesome," Eric Badgets of the American Council of the Blind tells Fox News. But "there are a lot of hoops that are going to need to be jumped through in the years to come" to get more of these cars on the road. Still, the concept is "absolutely intriguing." Google is "well aware of the fact that any support for a project of this nature is tenuous," especially in the event of a mishap or accident, says Tuan C. Nguyen at SmartPlanet. Safety is of the foremost importance if this technology is ever really going to "transform transportation for the better." Take a look:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why the Supreme Court is allowing Texas to hold an unconstitutional election
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Paul Krugman, Amazon, and the left's backwards view of book-industry titans
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Ban PowerPoint!
- The stories behind 22 classic album covers
Subscribe to the Week