The inspirational story of race car driver Dan Parker – blind since he crashed his 1963 Corvette into a concrete wall at 175 mph on the dragstrip in 2012 – continues with an upcoming attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “fastest speed for a car driven blindfold,” a mark currently held at 200.5 mph by Mike Newton of the United Kingdom.
Ironically, one of his sponsors is Cruise, a company known for its self-driving cars that are already traveling the streets of San Francisco without a human behind the wheel.
“The future of autonomous vehicles is making the world more accessible for blind drivers like Dan, who want to be able to get around in the world on their own terms,” Rob Grant, Cruise’s senior vice president of government affairs and social impact, said in a statement to Automotive News.
“Transportation remains one of the areas where blind Americans face the greatest obstacles to participation, and Cruise’s mission is to transform the problems in our current transportation system that aren’t accessible or inclusive by creating new opportunities for all.”
Parker won’t be trying to set the world record in one of Cruise’s vehicles, however.
Instead, he’ll climb behind the wheel of his 800 horsepower C6 Corvette, outfitted with a custom guidance system providing audible feedback. Parker has already used the system to become the first blind person to independently drive a vehicle 50 mph, 100 mph, and 150 mph, says the National Federation of the Blind, which is supporting him as part of its ongoing Blind Driver Challenge.
“Of course, for me the blindfold will not be necessary,” Parker said. “My 2008 Corvette is a purpose-built race car and I designed every aspect of it. With the work of the Blind Driver Challenge, we will not only demonstrate that a blind person can drive a vehicle safely, but that we can do it at over 200 mph. Together we hope to inspire blind people and to demonstrate our capacity, make history by setting a new world record and show the potential of new technology like self-driving cars to help blind people break barriers in everyday mobility.”
This latest attempt is nothing new for Parker, who’s been racing vehicles since age 8 and became the American Drag Racing League’s pro nitrous world champion in 2005.
After his life-changing accident nine years ago, Parker wasn’t ready to give up on his lifelong passion. Using a custom guidance system developed by Patrick Johnson, he’s eventually been able to resume driving at high speeds. According to a 2019 story in Car and Driver, Parker relies on a previous test drive done by his team down a strip of asphalt to define a center line used to plot coordinate points. Parker then uses automated audio cues that tell him how far he is from that line as he proceeds down the track.
Here is an video from May 2020 featuring Dan Parker from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:
[VIDEO] Dan Parker is Striving to be World’s Fastest Blind Person with his Special C6 Corvette Racer
The Semi-Autonomous SAM Arrow 2014 Corvette is On Display at the Corvette Museum
[VIDEO] Sam Schmidt and the Arrow Semi-Autonomous Corvette Z06 on Jay Leno’s Garage