Blind driver hits the road at Daytona International Speedway

By Jason Wheeler, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, January 29, 2011

As the Rolex 24 revs up at Daytona International Speedway this weekend -- one driver is being noticed for his unique driving abilities.

Mark Riccobono drives a specially designed SUV because he's blind.

Riccobono hasn't been able to see since he was five.

Riccobono's Ford Escape Hybrid is outfitted with laser range-finding sensors which passed information to his hands and seat. He made the trip around the mile-and-a-half road course with the support of hundreds of vision-impaired fans sitting in the bleachers.

"You can't imagine how, what a step forward this is for the blind and innovation and really gaining independence and new vision from the rest of the sighted community," said Sabrina Deaton with the National Federation of the Blind in Daytona Beach.

For Barb Wenger, it was also a special moment. Her daughter worked on the project for the past three years at Virginia Tech University.

"It is just phenomenal what these have come up with. It's just amazing," Wenger said.

The project began three years ago in collaboration with students from Virginia Tech and TORC Technologies. The students developed the tools Riccobono used. TORC integrated those into a working vehicle.