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      1. Autonomous driving: a ray of light in the darkness

        7 min reading time

        Autonomous driving will provide enormous support for the daily routine of a blind person in the future.

        But how does an autonomous drive in complete darkness feel? We tried it on a spectacular test drive in the dark. In an interview with Miro Miletic – himself visually impaired and Exhibition Director at the “Dialog im Dunkeln” (Dialogue in the Dark) museum – you will learn how he experienced the test and how he envisions the car of the future.

        At the “Dialog im Dunkeln” museum in Hamburg, Germany, visitors can experience the daily life of a blind person. Visually-impaired guides lead them through stations that mirror a city, bar or park environment. In cooperation with “Dialog im Dunkeln”, BMW added a station to the exhibition as part of an experiment.

        In complete darkness, the passengers sit in a BMW i3. What they don’t know: a big surprise awaits them. The reactions are priceless! See for yourself.

        Video: test drive in the dark

        This film contains scenes of fictional autonomous driving technologies, which do not exist yet. BMW currently does not offer any self-driving car. This film shows a hypothetical scenario of autonomous driving in the future. In the simulation, no production vehicle was used. The experiment was conducted in a closed-off area  and was closely monitored by experts.

        Interview with Miro Miletic, Exhibition Director “Dialog im Dunkeln”

        Miro Miletic, what role did driving have in your life before you lost your sight?

        I had been driving for years. The pleasure of driving and independence were my top priorities. With the loss of my vision at age 27 that was all gone. Suddenly, you no longer have the opportunity to sit in the car and just drive off. And that regardless of the fact, that I always had such a beautiful, chic sports car. Driving meant so much to me. It’s like a relationship with a person. And suddenly it’s all gone. This is a loss that you have to deal with psychologically.

        Do you think that autonomous driving can bring that feeling back?

        It certainly won’t be the same feeling. You still have to put your trust in some sort of technology. But what self-driving cars can give back to me is freedom and flexibility. Autonomous driving will not restore my sight, but the opportunities will improve the quality of my life.

        It's easy for me to trust an autonomous vehicle – after all, I rely on intelligent technologies in many areas of life.
        Miro Miletic

        Our “test drive in the dark” experiment simulates a ride in an autonomous car. How did that feel for you?

        It was an unusual feeling. However, if you’re sitting in a train or an airplane, you know that some of them are controlled by an autopilot. In the last several decades, we have learned to simply trust the technology – which I was able to experience even more intensely due to my visual impairment. I rely on technology in many ways: both at work and in my private life. That’s why it’s not so difficult for me to trust an autonomous vehicle, because I’ve had a positive experience with modern technology so far. 

        Take a closer look at the five levels of interaction between driver, car and world through which they drive.

        And what was different this time?

        Usually I sit in the car as a passenger. I pick up on a lot of what’s going on around me. But I never know whether the person at the wheel is aware of all this and whether he makes the right decisions. As I sat in the autonomous car, this discomfort completely disappeared – because I didn’t have to entrust my life to another person. I know the technology will be more reliable particularly in terms of reaction times. I could just totally relax. I felt like the car would do the right thing!

        Read here about how self-driving cars learn.    

        I can already replace almost everything with new technology – just not mobility yet.
        Miro Miletic

        What additional value does autonomous driving offer to the visually-impaired?

        The greatest added value is the increase in quality of life. I will be able to sit in the car and drive from A to B on my own. That saves an awful lot of time. Now I have to constantly check the clock and think about when the next train or bus is coming. Then I have to check if it’s the right bus – and ask the bus driver. Thanks to the autonomous car – I wouldn’t have to anymore.

        And how do you envision the car of the future?

        If I may describe it visually (Miro laughs), it’s a BMW i8, but in terms of comfort it would offer exactly what I experienced with the autonomous BMW i3. That’s what I want in life. Because I can already replace almost everything with new technology – just not mobility yet. The car of the future would rectify that. You just get in and tell it, “Take me to the nearest supermarket or to the restaurant, cinema or theatre.”

        Read here about how a self-driving car detects its surroundings.    

        What is “Dialog im Dunkeln”

        Since 1989, “Dialog im Dunkeln” has been the interface between those who are not visually-impaired and blindness. During the training of a visually-impaired colleague during a radio job, Andreas Heinecke came up with the idea for the exhibition. He wanted to teach those who were not visually impaired tolerance and empathy for blind citizens by letting them experience the daily routine of blind persons. The first exhibition opened its doors in Frankfurt. In 1997, the exhibition “Dialog im Stillen” (dialogue in silence) was added. As in “Dialog im Dunkeln”, it is about conveying the experiences from another world – this time the world in which deaf people live. Since 1989, more than 8 million people in 150 exhibition cities in 41 countries have taken part in “Dialog im Dunkeln” or “Dialog im Stillen”. Currently, you can visit the exhibitions at twenty-one locations worldwide. Since 2014, the Dialogue House has had another innovation in its repertoire at certain locations: “Dialog mit der Zeit” (dialogue with time). It is an exhibition about the art of aging. In addition, many locations offer “Dinner in the Dark”: a culinary journey in complete darkness – the daily routine of a visually-impaired person.


        BMW Personal CoPilot.

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