This advanced technology has the potential to change lives.
Racing is probably the world's most thrilling sport. We admire the formidable talent of the drivers and their devotion to shaving milliseconds off a lap time, but we often forget just how dangerous it can be. Driving on the edge isn't easy and, sometimes, it can go very wrong.
Once an up-and-coming Indy Racing League driver, Sam Schmidt's promising career was cut short when, during testing, his car lost control and hit a wall at 180 mph. While he survived, Schmidt suffered quadriplegia as a result. Unable to move his body from the neck down, his chances of driving a car ever again were very slim.
But thanks to the work of Arrow Electronics, Schmidt is once again hitting the track in a specially modified Chevrolet Corvette C8, seen at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed.
"The steering [is operated with] an IR camera system which tracks movement," explains a company engineer. "Whichever way you turn your head, it steers the car. The gas and brake are controlled by a sip-and-puff system. We have a tube connected to a pressure sensor - blow to go, suck to stop," she adds.
This isn't the first time Schmidt has gotten back behind the proverbial wheel. In 2020, the professional driver piloted the one-of-a-kind Corvette in the Optima Ultimate Street Car race, marking his return to motorsport after a 20-year absence. As a precaution, Schmidt (seated on the passenger side) is accompanied by a co-driver on his speedy stints.
"It's intuitive and takes a little time to get used to. This is such an unbelievable event, I've always wanted to come," remarks Schmidt. "I thought I would come as a spectator but it's [even better] to compete."
The four IR cameras (seen below) emit an IR light that tracks the helmet. On the hill climb, this incredible Corvette thunders down the raceway with a mighty V8 rumble, controlled only by Schmidt's head movements. In the video above, you can see the pro driver's head expertly navigating the sports car through the bends.
This technology is incredible and we're elated to see Schmidt able to indulge in his greatest love. However, Arrow is looking to implement this technology beyond motorsport applications. "It's very simple to adapt this technology into several different kinds of vehicles. Race cars are fun and go fast, but you can also do combine [harvesters], forklifts, and mail trucks [so that] people can get back to work."
Arrow Electronics has long explored this technology, first implemented in a Corvette C7 test unit. Like the C8 piloted above, it too can be controlled with just head movements.