Look Ma, No Hands! Semi-Autonomous Corvette Sets Speed Record

There’s been a lot of talk these says about autonomous cars. Most folks we know, especially car enthusiasts, are resistant to say the least. Most are from the “We don’t need no stinkin’ self driving cars,” school of thought. Duly noted and for the most part we agree, but check out this fantastic story from Motorsport.com

What if self driving cars or or semi-autonomous cars could help physically challenged people drive again,employing  technology that could give people their autonomy and freedom back? In the case of Sam Schmidt, the race car driver who was rendered quadriplegic after an accident at Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000, it means getting “back on the horse,” and regaining his love of driving.

Arrow Electronics devised a system called SAM (semi-autonomous motorcar,) that replaces steering wheel and pedal control of a car with head positions, breath control and electronic commands. The system uses motion capture technology and involves the driver steering the car with his head, and blowing down a tube to apply the throttle, and sucking on it to apply the brakes.

Wait, what? The driver controls the throttle and brakes by his breath? Yup, pretty incredible huh?

Engineer Grace Deeper elaborates more, “Sam has a new steering sunglasses-type headset, instead of the original baseball cap with sensors. The infrared cameras mounted on the Corvette’s dash can read the sensors on his sunglasses more accurately because the glasses are more rigid; we retro-fitted a regular pair of sunglasses with the markers and put them more in front of the camera. Sam sits very high in the car, so some of the sensors on the hat had been difficult to read.”

Driving a Corvette Z06 to a top speed of 152 mph, and lapping Indy raceway at an average of 108 mph, Schmidt set a new speed record for semi-autnomous cars. He completed his four laps of Indianapolis Motor Speedway without so much as touching the steering-wheel.

This is cool tech.Even cooler is that unlike Google’s self-driving tech, Arrow took off the shelf pieces and re-purposed them, demonstrating the ability to be retrofit this techology to an existing car.

 

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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