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First-Ever Semi-Autonomous Motorcar Modified for Individuals with Quadriplegia to Be Officially Demonstrated During 2014 Indy 500 Pole Day

Driving the first-of-its-kind car controlled only by his head, former IndyCar driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series Team owner Sam Schmidt will return to the track during the 2014 Indianapolis 500 Pole Day qualifications for the first time since he was paralyzed in a practice accident in 2000.

Driving a modified 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray dubbed the SAM Project, standing for “semi-autonomous motorcar,” Schmidt will become the first person with quadriplegia to drive a race car at speed using integrated advanced electronics. It is anticipated that he will take four consecutive demonstration laps at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 18, prior to Old National Armed Forces Pole Day qualifying for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

The vehicle integrates the following technology:

  • Infrared camera system—four sensors mounted on Schmidt’s hat connected to infrared cameras mounted on the dashboard that detect his head tilt motions in order to steer and accelerate.
  • Bite sensor—Schmidt holds a device in his mouth and bites down on it to slow down or brake.
  • Computer system—a central processor collects signals from the camera system and bite sensor to control the car’s acceleration, braking and steering,
  • GPS technology—a guidance system that keeps the car within 1.5 meters from the edge of the track. Schmidt has a width of approximately 10 meters to steer within.
  • Safety system—a set of software algorithms that ensure commands sent to the computer system are real and defined within the vehicle’s limits.

The SAM Project is a collaborative venture between Arrow Electronics, Inc. (NYSE:ARW), Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Schmidt Peterson Motor Sports and Falci Adaptive Motorsports, a nonprofit. Arrow is leading the development of the SAM car and the systems integration, as well as the engineering of specific systems for the car. Ball is leading the modification of the human-to-machine interface and driver-guidance system. The Air Force Research Laboratory is monitoring the driver’s biometrics during laps, as well as collecting data in how the driver interacts with the guidance systems. Dr. Scott Falci is serving as the project’s medical director.

“The SAM Project underscores the power of innovation in creating a better future for all of us, and what better setting to demonstrate automotive innovation than at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the proving ground for new technology since the turn of the 20th century,” said Michael J. Long, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Arrow. “Less than a year ago, a group of engineers and medical experts came together with the goal of getting Sam back into the driver’s seat after 14 years living with quadriplegia. We look forward to celebrating this historic moment with Sam.”

Following its demonstration, the SAM vehicle will be brought to events for public inspiration and education, disabled community awareness and business development opportunities. The project also supports Conquer Paralysis Now, Schmidt’s foundation dedicated to finding a cure for paralysis.


The SAM (semi-autonomous motorcar) Project is an innovative project in which a 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray car has been modified with integrated advanced electronics and a human-to-machine interface so a qualified quadriplegic driver can safely operate it under racetrack conditions. The concept of modifying cars so disabled racers might return to the racetrack is championed by Colorado neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Falci. The SAM Project is a collaborative venture between Arrow Electronics, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., the Air Force Research Laboratory, Schmidt Peterson Motor Sports and Falci Adaptive Motorsports. More information about the project is available at http://arrowsamcar.com/.


About Arrow Electronics

Arrow Electronics (www.arrow.com) is a global provider of products, services and solutions to industrial and commercial users of electronic components and enterprise computing solutions. Arrow serves as a supply channel partner for more than 100,000 original equipment manufacturers, contract manufacturers and commercial customers through a global network of more than 460 locations in 58 countries. Based in Englewood, Colo., Arrow guides today’s innovators to a better tomorrow – a world of Five Years Out. Five Years Out is a community of builders and engineers who navigate the path between possibility and practicality. Arrow is guiding the SAM project forward to improve mobility for the disabled and demonstrate the power of innovation. For more information about Arrow and the SAM project, visit www.arrow.com.

About Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., a subsidiary of the Ball Corporation and based in Broomfield, Colo., prides itself on its agility to innovate and strength to deliver for defense, intelligence, civil and commercial customers. The company advances science and protects the nation through the development and manufacture of space systems, tactical defense products and geospatial information solutions. Ball is a key contributor of technical innovations for the SAM project and leads the modification of the human-to-machine interface and driver guidance system. www.ballaerospace.com

About the Air Force Research Laboratory

The Air Force Research Laboratory is a scientific research organization operated by the United States Air Force Materiel Command dedicated to leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable aerospace warfighting technologies, planning and executing the Air Force science and technology program, and provide warfighting capabilities to United States air, space, and cyberspace forces. www.wpafb.af.mil/afrl

About Falci Adaptive Motorsports

Falci Adaptive Motorsports is a registered Colorado nonprofit. Its mission is to provide opportunity, education and inspiration to the public through disabled racing initiatives and advancements in spinal cord injury research encompassing spinal cord regeneration techniques, drug development for spinal cord injury neuropathic pain, and development of adaptive technologies for those with spinal cord injury and disabilities in general. One of FAM’s priorities is to demonstrate the SAM vehicle to advance new mobility systems and lower the barriers that discourage and isolate the disabled community. www.falcimotorsports.org

About Schmidt Peterson Motor Sports

Schmidt Peterson Motor Sports is a racing team owned by quadriplegic Sam Schmidt and partners. SPMS competes in both IndyCar and Indy Lights. The SAM C7 was modified at its racing garage in Indianapolis. SPMS’s priorities are for Sam Schmidt to safely drive at speed and to support the disabled community through his related charity, Conquer Paralysis Now. www.spmindycar.com

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