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Colorado Company Adapts Race Car For Quadriplegic Drivers

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Race car adapted for quadriplegic.

Arrow Electronics adapted a Corvette C7 Stringray so former race car driver Sam Schmidt, a quadriplegic, could use it on a race track.

The Colorado company Arrow Electronics has created a race car unlike any other race car in the world, writes The Denver Channel. Arrow adapted a 2014 Corvette C7 Stringray to enable a quadriplegic driver to operate it, as Arrow explains on its website.

The Centennial-based company turned the C7 Stingray into a semi-autonomous car that quadriplegic Sam Schmidt, a former race car driver in the IndyCar Series, can operate with his head. Schmidt, 50, who lives in Las Vegas, is testing the vehicle, known as the SAM car, at Bandimere Speedway in Colorado, writes The Denver Channel. Schmidt was paralyzed from the neck down 15 years ago, after a crash while practicing at Walt Disney World Speedway for the season opener, as Conquer Paralysis Now, Schmidt’s charity, writes. At first, he thought he would never be able to drive again, as The Denver Channel reports. Then Arrow called him to test their technology in the modified Corvette.

Quadriplegic driver Sam Schmidt.

Sam Schmidt, courtesy Schmidt-Peterson Motor Sports

Motion Tracking Sensors

When he is in the SAM car’s driver’s seat, Schmidt wears a cap that has eight infrared sensors, Arrow writes. Four infrared cameras mounted inside the car, facing the driver, integrate with the sensors in a system that motion-tracks the driver’s “subtle head movements in real time,” Arrow writes, adding:

The gas pedal is depressed based on the amount of air pressure Sam creates [as he puffs breath into the mouthpiece], giving him full control over acceleration — from a smooth gradual increase to a quick burst of speed.

By turning his head, he is able to direct the car to turn, accelerate, and brake, The Denver Channel writes. An engineer sits next to him in the passenger seat and can use a “kill switch” if she should need to take control, The Denver Channel writes.

The Denver Channel quotes Schmidt on how easy it is to drive the Corvette:

It’s just amazingly intuitive, very straightforward. I tilt my head to the left, it goes to the left. Tilt my head to the right, it goes to the right. With the new operating system I actually blow into a tube and it goes faster. I suck into the tube and it puts on the brakes. […] It just feels very automatic but you got to keep the bikinis out of the grandstands because you don’t want any sudden movements.

Extending Technology’s Applications

Schmidt is next looking forward to doing an exhibition lap in the Long Beach Grand Prix, The Denver Channel writes. He also looks forward to the day when Arrow’s technology will allow disabled people to control tractors, operate assembly line machinery, and even work on an oil rig, The Denver Channel writes. Sam’s dream, according to (part of The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation), is to walk his daughter down the aisle when she gets married.


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