Back in 2000, IndyCar legend Sam Schmidt was involved in a terrible crash during offseason at the Walt Disney World Speedway. This crash rendered him a quadriplegic – someone who has partial or total loss of use of all their limbs in their torso. Now having to live his life in a wheelchair controlled by the movement of his head and mouth, Schmidt had to stop driving and find a new way to be involved in the racing world.
However, in 2014 the SAM (semi-autonomous motorcar) project was created. The goal of this project was to get Schmidt to be the first ever quadriplegia to drive a race car at speed using advanced electronics.
A collaborative project between Arrow Electronics Inc., Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Falci Adaptive Motorsports, the SAM project utilized human-to-machine interface to allow paralyzed individuals to control vehicles on their own. Schmidt has the ability to control the car as he does his wheelchair. By using an infrared camera system, four sensors are mounted to Sam’s hat that are connected to the dashboard to allow him to steer and accelerate. By using a bite sensor, Schmidt is able to brake the vehicle by simply biting down. GPS technology is also used to keep the car within 1.5 meters from the edge of the track.
On May 18th, 2014, Sam Schmidt was able to drive once again for the first time in fourteen years. Topping out at 73.7 miles per hour, Schmidt took a modified 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray for a ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Memorial Day, Schmidt took the car for another ride around the speedway and topped out at a whopping 107 miles per hour!
Schmidt never believed that he would be able to drive again due to his paralysis, but this is proof that dreams really do come true! Congratulations to Sam Schmidt, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and everyone involved in the SAM Project!