After a devastating crash in winter testing at Walt Disney World Speedway fourteen years ago, Sam Schmidt suffered extensive injuries to his third and fourth vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed. However, his paralysis didn’t stop him from becoming a successful Indy Car team co-owner.
Thanks to the SAM Project and a semi-autonomous motorcar, Schmidt will drive four laps during the Indy 500 festivities on May 25th after being out of the driver’s seat for so long. The SAM Project is a collaborative venture between Arrow Electronics, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and Falci Adaptive Motorsports – They took a C7 Stingray and transformed it into a totally hands-free vehicle for Schmidt to pilot.
The human-to-machine technology that has been implemented into the SAM Project is fascinating and truly ground-breaking – Schmidt will wear a special hat with infrared markers, allowing him to tilt his head to steer and accelerate. There are infrared cameras located in the cabin of the car that capture his head movement by reading the dots on the hat, which are then translated by a CPU into commands and sent to actuators located on the car’s brakes, accelerator, and steering wheel. The brakes, however, are a little different and will be controlled by a pressure sensor – when Schmidt bites down on the pressure sensor, the brakes are applied based on how hard he bites down.
“The great thing about the SAM project isn’t that we are doing something out of the ordinary – we are taking existing technology and stretching its limits to see how far it can go,” states Andrew Dawes, Engineer, Arrow Electronics. We will definitely be watching as Schmidt takes his laps at the Indy 500 and demonstrates the awesome technology of the SAM project.