By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt will become the first American to receive an autonomous vehicle drivers licence in his home state of Nevada.
Schmidt was paralyzed from the neck down in a testing accident at the now closed Walt Disney World Speedway in January of 2000. He has since gone on to become a mainstay in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Championship and currently fields entries for James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin.
Two years ago, Schmidt began collaborating with Arrow Electronics, who sponsors Schmidt’s driver James Hinchcliffe, to develop semi-autonomous controls in a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C7, dubbed the SAM project. The car is controlled by infrared cameras that sense Schmidt’s head movements as well as a breathing tube which controls acceleration and braking.
He first drove the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2014 and has since taken laps at Long Beach, Sonoma Raceway before returning to Indianapolis in 2016 with an updated car which topped out at 152 mph. He also competed at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in June.
Arrow has worked with Nevada’s DMV regulations in order to allow Schmidt to drive on public roads.
Schmidt feels blessed that he has been able to complete this next step in his journey.
“This has been an incredible journey,” said Schmidt. “What started as a hope and a dream to go one hundred miles per hour has taken on a life of its own. Quickly changing technology no different than advances in cell phones have allowed us to compete on road courses, go 152 miles per hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year and complete the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. These were all ridiculous thoughts three years ago.
“Getting a drivers license is not the end of the road, but it is the ultimate example to tell the world you can absolutely accomplish anything if you combine resources with the right group committed to a common cause. It has truly been a life changing experience for me and my family.”
Schmidt will receive his licence at a ceremony at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway today at 10:40 a.m. PT and will turn some demonstration laps at the speedway’s Exotics Road Course and on public roadways.