Quadriplegic Racer Sam Schmidt Receives America’s First Semi-Autonomous Driver’s License

The former IndyCar driver is no longer limited to race tracks.

sam schmidt corvette semi autonomous driver's license
Arrow

Following the career-ending crash of roughly a decade and a half ago that left him paralyzed, former IndyCar racer Sam Schmidt has been doing everything possible to get himself back behind the wheel. It hasn't been easy. But thanks to the joint efforts of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and Arrow Electronics, Schmidt will be back on public roads, doing one of the one of the things he loves most. On Wednesday​, Schmidt will become the first person in America to be issued a driver's license to operate a semi-autonomous car.

Schmidt currently drives a C7-generation Chevrolet Corvette Z06 modified by Arrow Electronics so that the former IndyCar racer can control the vehicle using head motions, his breath, and verbal commands. While behind the wheel, Schmidt blows into a tube to accelerate and sucks on it to brake; steering is handled by four infrared cameras placed across the dashboard, which track the movements of his head.

The 52-year-old was diagnosed as a quadriplegic after being severely injured in a crash at the Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida in 2000. Schmidt's spinal cord was severely injured in the wreck, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Since then, however, he has worked with Arrow Electronics in order to develop the software and technology that would enable quadruplegic individuals such as himself to get back behind the wheel. 

Previously, The Drive reported on Schmidt taking his Z06 at the 100th running of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, and when the former IndyCar racer drove the Corvette to a record-breaking 156 miles per hour at the Indianapolis 500. Luckily for him, Schmidt no longer has to stick to race track in order to enjoy the thrill of driving.

Arrow

Schmidt's semi-autonomous Corvette. 

Arrow

The view from the driver's seat.