This man will be driving a Chevy Corvette with his face
With no hands on the wheel nor legs on the pedals
A life-threatening car crash can have adverse effects on a driver’s confidence. Some tend to stay scared to drive again while some vow to never sit in a car at all. But when a racing driver faces such a life-altering event, I believe they seem to draw an immense amount of inspiration and zeal to come back stronger. The story of Sam Schmidt is of one such zealous pursuit to race again.
Back in the 1990s, the name Sam Schmidt was proclaimed to be a rising star in the Indy Racing League. However, a terrifying accident during an off-season event in 2000 left him paralysed from the shoulders down. And since then, Schmidt hasn’t been back behind the wheel with a racing intent. Until now.
This weekend, if you happen to be around the NCM Motorsport Park for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge, you’d be witnessing a rookie line up at the starting grid without either of his hands on the wheel. Since the horrifying accident twenty years ago, this would be the first time Sam Schmidt would don the racing helmet with a corresponding intent. And the car he’d be driving won’t be an underpowered hatchback but the latest all-American Chevy Corvette C8.
The car is said to have been developed by Speedway Motors - a manufacturer and distributor of automotive racing parts and products with electronic aid offered by Arrow Electronics. The Speedway developers would be doubling up as Sam’s pit crew for this weekend’s race. And the customised car has been conveniently dubbed as the ‘S.A.M’, short for Semi-Autonomous Motorcar.
To provide the driving reigns to the human Sam, both, the car’s cabin and Sam’s face would galore in sensors and cameras. The ones on Sam will comprise of a special headset with infrared emitters, designed by Arrow Electronics which would record the driver’s head movements (head tilt in either direction) to be read by the cameras on the dashboard to point the S.A.M in the respective direction. Acceleration and braking duties here aren’t by-wire but certainly by-tube. To elaborate, its more of a sip-and-puff device placed ahead of the driver’s mouth on which inhaling and exhaling will alter the car’s throttle and braking.
But what if something went wrong with the electronics? What if the driver had to sneeze? In such a case, the co-driver with his designated set of controls can take over. And for the record, this won’t be the first time Sam would be piloting such a vehicle. The racing driver did run through some demo laps in the C7 Corvette SAM car at the 2014 Indy 500.
Its said that technology could only be termed as great if it helps the masses or the needy. Here, it certainly provides a big boost to the man’s psychology and confidence as it defies his need to depend on someone. But more importantly, it allows a racing driver to race again. This comes at the back of a proclamation made by his doctors stating he would need a ventilator to breathe for the rest of life.
2020 seems to be gradually getting better moments.