Fourteen years ago, former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt wrecked during winter testing at Walt Disney World Speedway. He suffered extensive injuries to his third and fourth vertebrae, rendering him a quadriplegic and putting him on a respirator for five weeks. The accident didn’t turn Schmidt off of motorsports, though, he is a current IndyCar and Indy Lights team owner and will drive a C7 Corvette Stingray for four laps at the Indy 500 later this month.
The car Schmidt will drive is supported by the SAM (semi-autonomous motorcar) project. It is the result of a collaborative effort from the Arrow Electronics, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Falci Adaptive Motorsports. To drive the car, Schmidt will tilt his head to steer and accelerate. His movements are recorded by infrared cameras located inside the cabin which relay the information to a computer unit.
If Schmidt happens to veer off course, GPS technology will prevent movement within 1.5 meters from virtual curbing and within a 10-meter width. If that fails, engineers have the ability to take over the car and pilot it safely. Don’t count on that having to happen though, as Schmidt has already completed four successful runs in the car at IMS. He’s also stated that he wants to have an average speed of at least 100 mph and we wouldn’t put it past him to go a lot faster than that. You can catch his laps in the Corvette at IMS on Indy 500 race day, scheduled for Sunday, May 25.