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Former IndyCar Driver Sam Schmidt Becomes First Individual Ever to Drive on Race Track Semi-Autonomous Motorcar Modified for Individuals with Quadriplegia

Topping out at 73.7 miles per hour, former IndyCar driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series Team owner Sam Schmidt today drove a race car 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, meaning “semi-autonomous motorcar,” Schmidt becomes the first person with quadriplegia to drive a race car at speed using integrated advanced electronics.

Schmidt drove four consecutive demonstration laps today prior to Old National Armed Forces Pole Day qualifying for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

The SAM Project is a collaborative venture between Arrow Electronics, Inc., Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Schmidt Peterson Motor Sports and Falci Adaptive Motorsports, a nonprofit. Arrow led the development of the SAM car and the systems integration, as well as the engineering of specific systems for the car. Ball led the modification of the human-to-machine interface and driver-guidance system. Colorado neurosurgeon and Falci Adaptive Motorsports founder Dr. Scott Falci advocated for the modification of a Corvette for FAM’s adaptive motorsports program for the spinal-cord injured and recruited Schmidt to the SAM Project. The Air Force Research Laboratory monitored Schmidt’s biometrics during laps, as well as collecting data in how he interacted with the guidance systems.

“Racing has been a dream of mine since I was five years old,” said Schmidt. “I thought I’d never be able to race again after my accident, but this vehicle made it possible. While I was in the SAM vehicle, I was unencumbered by my disability. It was the most normal I have felt in nearly 15 years. It was amazing.”

While autonomous vehicles exist today, a race car for individuals paralyzed from the shoulders down did not exist until the SAM Project. Moreover, the SAM Project’s objectives are not to transfer control of a vehicle to technology but rather to enable disabled drivers to enjoy the driving experience by leveraging the power of technology.

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.

Following Indy 500 festivities, 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.

ABOUT THE SAM PROJECT

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 SAM PROJECT PARTNERS

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 non-profit. 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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