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Paralysed racing driver races Indy500 with his head

A racing driver will compete in Indy500 despite being paralysed in a car accident in 2000.

A quadraplegic racing driver will steer with his head in this season’s Indy500. Sam Schmidt became paralysed after crashing during winter testing for the Indianapolis 500 series in 2000. But he’s back to compete again in semi-autonomous Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

Schmidt will race a Chevy Corvette C7 Stingray with his head
Schmidt will race a Chevy Corvette C7 Stingray with his head

The modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray is known as SAM (semi-autonomous motorcar.) It features a system of infra-red sensors and cameras which detect the driver’s movements. Essentially, Schmidt turns his head right to send the car right, left to turn left, and bites down on a pressure sensor to brake. To accelerate, he tilts his head back.

In addition, SAM is fitted with GPS designed to alert the driver when the car is within three feet of the circuit walls or curbs. A “safety officer” will ride shotgun, in case human intervention is required. Engineers in the pitlane can also remotely control the car.

The modified Stingray is a collective effort by Arrow Electronics, in partnership with Ball Aerospace, Falci Adaptive Motorsport, the US Air Force Research Lab and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

It’s clear Schmidt’s love of the track has never waned, despite the severity of the injuries he sustained. After being on a respirator for five weeks he woke to find he no longer had the use of his arms and legs. Yet, he recovered and continued managing a team, Sam Schmidt Motorsport, that boasts a history of top name drivers such as Katherine Legge of the UK, current race winner Simon Pagenaud and the late Dan Wheldon.

With the new Corvette C7 Stingray producing 460bhp with a 0-60mph acceleration time of 3.8 seconds, Schmidt will able to get in some serious no-hands hoonage. Here’s wishing Sam the very best of luck! 


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