Nevada Lt. Governor Mark Hutchison today presented the first autonomous vehicle restricted driver’s license issued in the U.S. to Sam Schmidt, a Nevada resident and former Indy Racing League driver who has been paralyzed from the neck down since a racing accident in 2000.
After receiving his license, Schmidt demonstrated his driving skills on the Exotics Racing track and nearby public roads. Schmidt is able to drive a modified Corvette Z06 using only the motion of his head, his breath and voice commands. Arrow Electronics built the semi-autonomous vehicle, called the Arrow SAM Car, for Schmidt in 2014 to demonstrate the power of technology to improve lives.
Voice commands enable Schmidt to switch gears and turn the Arrow SAM Car on and off. Sensors mounted on an Arrow-designed high-tech headset he wears connect to infrared cameras mounted on the dashboard and detect Schmidt’s head-tilt motions to steer. A sip-and-puff device that Smith breathes into enables him to accelerate and brake.
The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been working with Schmidt and Arrow since 2015 to become the first state to enhance regulations allowing Schmidt to legally drive the SAM Car on Nevada public roads under restricted conditions. Nevada is rapidly emerging as a leader in the manufacturing and automotive industry, creating and encouraging autonomous regulations, as well as testing and consumer deployment requirements.
“This testing will help to improve their technology and bring them closer to providing increased mobility to the disabled community,” said Jude Hurin, Administrator for the Management Services and Programs Division in the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Working toward autonomous technology is a priority for Nevada to not only reduce accidents and fatalities on its roadways, but to eventually increase mobility and independence for people with physical disabilities, including wounded warriors. There are now six companies licensed for autonomous vehicle testing in Nevada.
The objective of the Arrow SAM Car project is to enable drivers with physical disabilities to experience the mobility and independence of driving again by leveraging the power of technology. All of the software and technology that Arrow developed for the car is open to the developer and engineering communities, and it has promising broader applications for independent living.
Earlier this year, Schmidt reached 152 mph in the SAM Car during demonstration laps at the Indianapolis 500, and he also tackled the hairpin twists and turns of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The SAM Car project is a collaborative venture between Arrow Electronics, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the nonprofit organization Conquer Paralysis Now and Paravan GmbH, a world leader in innovative automobile conversions for drivers with severe disabilities