Monday, May 11, 2015

Now Here’s an Autonomous Car I Can Get Behind

Sam Schmidt driving the SAM 2.0 car during the final road course
engineering test drive in Morrison Colorado on March 13, 2015.
(Photo: Business Wire)
There’s been a lot of talk about autonomous cars over the past few years. Some people think they can’t bring them on soon enough, others aren’t so sure. While I’m all in favour of safety features and collision avoidance, I wonder if the self-driving car will soon mean the only place people will be allowed to drive will be on the racetrack. Or that only the well-heeled will be able to afford them. On the other hand, it could mean people who can’t now drive, can once more enjoy the independence of their own car. That’s what the Arrow Electronics Semi-Autonomous Motorcar (SAM) Project is about.

The SAM 2.0 car is a 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray modified to allow a quadriplegic to drive it. How cool is that? Former IndyCar Driver Sam Schmidt, paralyzed in a racing accident back in 2000, took it for a spin on the Long Beach Grand Prix track recently. Last year he demonstrated the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, driving fast enough to qualify for the Indy 500.

“Racing has been a dream of mine since I was five years old,” said Schmidt. “I thought I would never be able to drive again after my accident, but this vehicle makes it possible for me to improve every time I am on the track. When I drive the SAM Car, I feel a sense of normalcy. The latest modifications in SAM Car 2.0 allowed me to make sharp right and left turns, as well as synchronize my acceleration and braking more precisely.”

How does it work? It uses infrared cameras connected to sensors on Schmidt’s hat, so he can steer by tilting his head. Brakes and accelerator are controlled by sucking or blowing into a tube with an attached pressure sensor. GPS keeps the car away from the edge of the track. There’s also a computer to keep track of everything. While it would obviously take some getting used to, it seems to work remarkably well.

You can find out more about the SAM Project HERE. I like the fact that they’ve chosen a sports car to modify—not everyone wants to drive a van!

[SOURCE: Businesswire]