Goodwood, England-From the age of 5, Sam Schmidt’s ambition was to become an IndyCar champion. He achieved this goal, winning the Indy 500 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1999. The brilliant racing career began.
But a few months later, on January 6, 2000, Schmidt crashed in a practice lap at the Orlando Disney World Speedway, severely injuring his spinal cord.
The doctor told him that he might need a ventilator for the rest of his life. He stopped the ventilator six weeks later, but was diagnosed with quadriplegia-paralysis from the neck down.
Schmidt told Reuters: “This is the passion of my life, and then this happened and it kind of turned things upside down.”
Although the prospect of him participating in the race again no longer exists, Schmidt founded Schmidt Petersen Motorsport in 2001. His team, now called Arrow McLaren SP, won 12 IndyCar races.
Despite this, the desire to race prompted Schmidt to start an exciting proposal: to create a car that can be driven despite a disability.
Beginning in 2013, working with engineers from the technology company Arrow Electronics, the result was SAM cars-SAM stands for “semi-autonomous driving.”
“Arrow came up with the idea of making cars for people who can’t use arms and legs. It’s an amazing experience,” Schmidt said.
“What I didn’t expect was this overwhelmingly normal feeling because I was in control. Literally, at that moment in my life, I really didn’t have a lot of things to control. I needed help to do anything. .So in fact I’m manipulating it, I’m using brake It’s exhilarating to be as fast as gasoline and I want. So this is great. “
“The sky is the limit!”
He is wearing a racing hat and sunglasses equipped with infrared sensors, which are tracked by infrared cameras mounted on the dashboard to detect his head movement.
In order to accelerate and brake, Schmidt uses his breath to inhale and exhale through the “inhale” pressure sensor.
Although Schmidt has a co-pilot by his side and their hands hovering over the steering wheel to control in an emergency, he has managed to drive on many circuits in the United States, and now Goodwood Circuit is its first year. The speed driving event was once part of the festival. Other milestones include speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour and driving wife appointments.
Arrow’s engineers recently created an exoskeleton suit, further giving him the independence that was once thought to be lost forever.
“In the past few months, I wore (it) at my daughter’s wedding. So, so far, this is the best day in 21 years,” Schmidt said, adding that when he and his newlywed daughter When dancing, there is no dry eyes in the house.
He added that the technology he and Arrow pioneered may have a broader impact on helping people with disabilities.
“This technology can be transferred to industrial use, allowing people to return to work. You can drive a harvester, you can drive a train, you can drive a forklift or a crane.”
As for his future, Schmidt’s goals are high.
“The sky is the limit… I heard that they are selling tickets for the space station, maybe that’s it!”