Long after his accident, Sam Schmidt takes the wheel again thanks to Project SAM

April 23rd, 2016
by The Feeder

Sam Schmidt smiles from the driver’s seat of Project SAM, the Corvette Stingray that’s been modified to let him drive it, despite being paralyzed from the neck down. (credit: Arrow)

In the late 90s, Sam Schmidt had a promising career as an IndyCar driver, finishing fifth in the championship in 1999 after taking his first win in Las Vegas. In off-season, however, his ascension in the sport was derailed. During testing that following January, an accident at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida left Schmidt a quadriplegic.

In the years since, Schmidt has continued to go racing but as a team owner. He’s watched from the pit as drivers like Simon Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe brought home glory for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport. But recently a collaboration with his team’s title sponsor, Arrow Electronics, has placed Schmidt back where he belongs—behind the wheel of a car on track.

The car is a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, and the initiative is called Project SAM for “Semi-Autonomous Motorcar.” However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a self-driving vehicle. Instead, the core of Project SAM is about mapping the dynamic range of the car’s inputs—steering, throttle, brake—and translating them to a different control format, in this case one suitable for a quadriplegic driver. “We needed to be able to control any feature of the car by using electronic signals and software,” said Chakib Loucif, Arrow’s VP of engineering.

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