CENTENNIAL, CO — Quadriplegic former IndyCar driver and current team owner Sam Schmidt completed the bottom half of the challenging, high-altitude Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb yesterday in the Arrow Electronics, Inc. Semi-Autonomous Motorcar (SAM car).
Schmidt, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a crash during an IndyCar practice lap in 2000, is able to steer, accelerate and brake the modified 2016 Corvette Z06 SAM car using only his head. Sensors mounted on an Arrow-designed high-tech headset that Schmidt wears connect to infrared cameras mounted on the dashboard and detect his head-tilt motions to steer. A sip-and-puff device that Smith breathes into enables him to accelerate and brake (www.multivu.com/players/English/7864151-arrow-electronics-sam-car-pikes-peak).
"Tackling the twists and turns of Pikes Peak in the Arrow SAM car was a thrill I'll never forget," says Schmidt, who founded the nonprofit organization Conquer Paralysis Now, which is working to find a cure for paralysis and spinal cord injuries. "The SAM project is a great example of what can happen when the right people collaborate to push the boundaries of what's possible with technology."
Schmidt tackled the bottom half of the challenging 12.42 mile, 4,725 ft. climb, which included dozens of twists and hairpin turns, after the 102 official racers and drivers completed their races.
Schmidt was joined by co-pilot Robby Unser — a nine-time Pikes Peak class winner and four-time King of the Mountain — who could take over the SAM car's controls in the event of an emergency. With Unser by his side, Schmidt reached a top speed of 152 mph last month in the SAM car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in between qualifying laps for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
"The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb captivates auto enthusiasts around the world. It's the perfect place to showcase the inspiring capabilities of Sam Schmidt and Arrow's SAM car project," says Joe Verrengia, Arrow's global director of corporate social responsibility, who oversees the company's award-winning SAM project. "We hope the SAM car continues to drive technology innovation forward and inspire people to dream big because, as Sam showed us all yesterday, anything is possible."
The objective of the SAM project is to enable disabled drivers to experience 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.
The SAM 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. For more information on the project, visit http://arrow.com/SAM.