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Head Start

June 02, 2014
June 02, 2014

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June 2, 2014

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Head Start

A new car allows hands-free driving

SAM SCHMIDT NEVER broke 100 mph but probably ran the greatest laps at Indy last week. The former Indy racer (he won the 1999 Vegas.com 500) and current co-owner of the Schmidt Peterson Indy team was left a quadriplegic by a practice accident in 2000. But the SAM car (semiautonomous motorcar), a modified Corvette, allowed him to get back behind the wheel. "I thought I'd never be able to race again, but this vehicle made it possible," said Schmidt after his prequalifying jaunt. "It was the most normal I have felt in nearly 15 years." Here's how the car works.

This is an article from the June 2, 2014 issue Original Layout

97 MPH

The top speed Schmidt hit during his four-lap run.

BRAKING

Bite down on device in mouth

STEERING

Tilt head left or right

ACCELERATION

Tilt head back

To find out more about the project and see video of Schmidt's ride, go to SI.com/Edge

WHAT MAKES IT RUN

INFARED SENSORS

Mounted on a hat to detect head movement.

INFARED CAMERAS

Dash-mounted to track the driver's head movements.

ON-BOARD GPS

Updates 100 times per second and prevents the car from coming closer than one meter to the wall.

CENTRAL PROCESSOR

The "brain" takes input from the sensors and sends commands to the actuators.

ROTARY ACTUATORS

Control the steering wheel, gas pedal and brake pedal according to orders sent from the processor.

PHOTOCOURTESY SAM PROJECT (SCHMIDT)PHOTOCOURTESY SAM PROJECT (CAR SIDE VIEW)THREE ILLUSTRATIONSCOURTESY SAM PROJECT (HEAD ILLUSTRATIONS)PHOTOBRET KELLEY/IMS PHOTO (CAR FRONT VIEW)FIVE PHOTOSTANNER MAXWELL (ICONS)