Quadriplegic Gets First Driverless License

Paralyzed in 2000, Sam Schmidt gets a second chance to drive cars
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2016 8:36 AM CDT
Quadriplegic Gets First Driverless License
Paralyzed pro race car driver Sam Schmidt smiles behind he wheel of his modified Corvette.   (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Ever since he was a little boy, Sam Schmidt wanted to race cars. He was living that dream, driving in the Indy Racing League when a crash on a test run in Orlando severed his spinal cord in 2000, leaving him paralyzed in all four limbs. On Wednesday, however, Schmidt was back in the driver's seat, blowing into a tube that allowed him to speed away in a modified sports car, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Schmidt, 52, has become the first person in the US to be issued a license to drive a semi-autonomous vehicle. The restricted license allows him to hit the Nevada streets in his specialty 2016 Corvette Z06, though with a licensed driver in the passenger seat and only when following a pilot car.

Schmidt controls the vehicle through head movements registered by four infrared cameras mounted on the dash. He accelerates by breathing into a tube and brakes by inhaling. The disabled community is eagerly awaiting fully driverless cars, which are expected to hit US roads in the next five to 10 years, the AP reports. "It's coming. We're looking for something to help us get that level of independence," says Schmidt. But independent driving won't come cheap. Schmidt's $80,000 car was modified by Arrow Electronics, which spent another six figures to pimp it out with computers, sensors, a passenger-side brake, and other necessities. Arrow hopes other companies will borrow its technology and build on what it's done. (New 'tongue ring' helps quadriplegics control wheelchairs.)

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