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On Tech & Vision With Dr. Cal Roberts

Jun 2, 2023

This podcast is about big ideas on how technology is making life better for people with vision loss.

Navigating the world can be difficult for anyone, whether or not they have vision loss. Tasks like driving safely through a city, navigating a busy airport, or finding the right bus stop all provide unique challenges. Thankfully, advances in technology are giving people more freedom of movement than ever before, allowing them to get where they want, when they want, safely.

Smart Cities are putting data collection to work in a healthy way by providing information to make busy intersections more secure, sidewalks more accessible, and navigation more accurate. They’re providing assistance for all aspects of travel, from the front door to the so-called “last hundred feet,” while using automated technology to make life easier every step of the way.

 And although fully autonomous vehicles are still on the horizon, the technology being used to develop them is being applied to improve other aspects of life in incredible ways. These applications are making the world more accessible, safer, and better for everyone, including people who are blind or visually impaired.

One example of this is Dan Parker, the “World’s Fastest Blind Man,” who has developed sophisticated guidance systems for his racing vehicles, as well as a semi-autonomous bicycle that could give people with vision loss a new way to navigate the world safely and independently.


The Big Takeaways:

  • Smart Cities. Greg McGuire and his team at MCity in Ann Arbor, Michigan are working on the concept of Smart Cities, which focus on using data to improve the everyday lives of their citizens. That means improving traffic intersection safety, greater accessibility options, providing detailed “last hundred feet” guidance, and much more.
  • Autonomous Driving. In a perfect world, self-driving cars will provide ease of transportation for everyone, and create safer, less congested roads. That technology isn’t there yet – but it’s being worked on by talented researchers like John Dolan, the Principal Systems Scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Autonomous Driving Vehicle Research Center. Sophisticated sensors and advanced robot-human interfaces are being developed to make self-driving cars possible.
  • Application of Technology. Even though the technologies behind Smart Cities and autonomous vehicles are still being developed, they can still be applied to everyday life in exciting ways. Things like miniature delivery robots that can deliver goods, AI-powered suitcases that can help you navigate busy airports, or semi-autonomous bicycles are already here – and there’s more on the way.
  • The World’s Fastest Blind Man. When professional race car driver Dan Parker lost his vision in an accident, he felt lost. But a moment of inspiration led him and his business partner Patrick Johnson to develop a sophisticated guidance system that let him continue racing without human assistance. Thanks to this revolutionary technology, Dan became the “World’s Fastest Blind Man” when he set a land-speed record of 211.043 miles an hour in his customized Corvette.



  • “One of the key pillars of MCity is accessibility. The four areas we think about are safety, efficiency, equity, and accessibility. … Accessibility is that we can make transportation systems available to as many of us as possible.” – Greg McGuire, Managing Director of MCity
  • “I became the first blind man to race Bonneville, with an average speed of 55.331 mph. And I returned in 2014 and set my official FIM class record … at 62.05 mph. … I’m the only blind land speed racer … with no human assistance.”– Dan Parker, the “World’s Fastest Blind Man”
  • “There are chairs, there are tables. ... We know we don’t want to run into them, but we do want to walk in the walkable space. … A car wants to drive in the drivable space.” – John Dolan, Principal Systems Scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Autonomous Driving Vehicle Research Center
  • “Because we know autonomous technology is increasing every day and it’s coming, you know, a hundred percent it’s coming. You know, transportation is freedom and that’s exactly what that would bring us. Freedom.” – Dan Parker


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