This past Sunday (September 30th, 2018) at San Francisco’s Lake Merced, over 300 walking warriors gathered for the 10th anniversary of Walk Like MADD, the signature fundraising event of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Velodyne LiDAR has been proud to call MADD a close partner in promoting safe roadways. Walkers raised not only awareness, but crucial funds to help end drunk driving. As title sponsor, Velodyne financially contributed to the event and joined forces with other generous donors to allow MADD to offer programs and services at no cost; as well as support a future where roadway fatalities are left in the past. Velodyne’s involvement in the Walk Like MADD event has been the latest development in a rewarding partnership which has now spanned a year in length.
An air of anticipation surrounded the festivities as attendees checked in and enjoyed vendors, food trucks, and a live band. Sponsors also had the chance to interact with participants through educational booths. Velodyne’s booth garnered considerable attention. People were intrigued and optimistic about how LiDAR technology combats the issue of impaired driving.
As the walking portion of the event neared, SFPD Color Guard played a rousing National Anthem and Mike Wendler Deputy DA acted as emcee. A number of speakers shared with those gathered. Natasha Thomas, MADD Northern California Executive Director, opened with a warm welcome, and was proceeded by a message on behalf of SFPD Law Enforcement given by Commander David Lazar (overseer of Community Engagement for SFPD). Other speakers included Sally Frykman (Velodyne Director of Education and Business Development), Domenica Cardenas (Law Enforcement 2018 Challenge Winner and MADD volunteer), and Ron Medford (National Board Member/Waymo Safety Director Self Driving Car). Past MADD National Board Member and Founder of MADD’s Bay Area Chapter, Mary Klotzbach, delivered a dedication to MADD President-Elect Nina Walker, who lost her daughter to a drunk driver. Then a message of hope was expressed to the family of Jesaun Benson, a 19-year-old hit and killed by an alleged impaired driver in Oakland. To conclude, MADD Bay Area Program Manager Brian Gleason led the walk countdown and kick-off.
Motivated by the speeches as well as cheers from the onlookers, walkers enthusiastically commenced their 5K. Those who had experienced tragedy strode alongside those who empathized strongly with their loss. A strong sense of camaraderie kept all participants going strong to the end. The nature of Lake Merced and the ideal sunny weather made the route all the more agreeable.
But the finish line didn’t conclude the festivities. Voyage and Velodyne worked together to display a fully autonomous demo car. As members of the community climbed inside, they were met with real-time sensor data displayed on the screens mounted to the car’s backseats well as a screen outside the vehicle. Essentially, they were allowed to see what the car could “see,” giving them a better understanding for the revolutionary technology of fully autonomous vehicles.
The event also coincided with a Velodyne-published webpage featuring a series of informational videos to educate on the prevention of impaired roadway collisions. An animated short by Demente Studio titled “Jane: A Velodyne Story” debuted, portraying a near future where LiDAR technology could make the difference between a memorable 21st birthday and disaster. Another clip is “LiDAR 101.” explaining LiDAR sensor technology and its use in self-driving vehicles.
The benefits of Velodyne’s collaboration with MADD was articulated wonderfully by one of the event’s speakers, our very own Director of Education and Business Development Sally Frykman. “Velodyne has partnered with MADD to work toward an efficient, effective, fully connected future in which automated vehicles are able to provide safe ride services to all to reduce and hopefully eliminate both drunk driving and all other collisions caused by human error simply by removing the human error from the equation,” she shared with the crowd.