With a breath of air, he can make his car accelerate. By inhaling, he applies the brakes to his heavily modified Corvette. He is former Indy Racing League driver Sam Schmidt. A quadriplegic since a crash in a 2000 practice run, Schmidt is a pioneer unwilling to give up the road.
He is to receive the nation's first restricted driver's license for a semi-autonomous vehicle. Though his severe spinal cord injury took away his ability to use standard vehicle controls, his high-tech Vette is equipped to enable him to use his voice, breath and head movements to control the car.
Schmidt's promising career behind the wheel came to an end when he crashed on a test run on a racetrack in Orlando, Florida. His life in the world of racing goes on, however. Today, he is owner of an IndyCar Series team.
The Corvette he will be driving on Nevada roads will be controlled by a headset Schmidt wears while driving. Four infrared cameras sense movements in the head gear and steer the vehicle accordingly. A tube inside the helmet senses bursts and intakes of air that signal the car's computer to accelerate or brake as Schmidt travels state roads.
This technological breakthrough will enable those who have suffered spinal cord injuries to reclaim a portion of their lives and have greater mobility and independence. No one knows yet how quickly the tech will spread or how affordable it can be, but there is no doubt that this is an important step forward.
Anyone who has suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident or other mishap can speak with a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney about legal options that include compensation. An experienced lawyer can help you hold the responsible party fully accountable for damages.