In 2000, race car driver Sam Schmidt crashed during a practice lap, injuring his spinal cord and soon after was diagnosed as a quadriplegic. For the first time in 14 years, Schmidt will have the opportunity to get back on the race track at this year’s Indianapolis 500 thanks to new technology and a specially-outfitted 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray.
While he will only be driving four laps before the race starts, the incredible thing is that he will be doing so by simply moving his head. Infrared sensors and cameras within the Corvette will translate Schmidt’s head movement into driving maneuvers on the car’s onboard CPU.
A pressure sensor will be used to brake and/or stop the car, which is activated by Schmidt biting down on the device. Also, Schmidt will be outfitted in a hat equipped with reflective infrared markers to help easily identify and translate every one of his movements.
There is a GPS located in the car that can automatically adjust the course of the car should the vehicle’s trajectory be off, accelerate too fast or take a turn too sharp or wide. Not to mention, the GPS updates 1,000 times per second so to say it is accurate would be an understatement.
Finally, should anything go wrong, Schmidt will be accompanied by a co-rider who can take control of the car at any point and a pit crew capable of stopping the vehicle remotely.
The car is part of the semi-autonomous motorcar (SAM) project. Arrow Electronics, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Falci Adaptive Motorsports worked together to create the car for Schmidt.