• Fifteen years ago, doctors told Sam Schmidt he’d never move his arms or legs again.
    They didn’t say anything about driving.

  • Daring to Dream

    Sam is a former Indy Racing League driver. He made 27 career starts, winning at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1999. On January 6, 2000, Sam crashed during a practice lap at the Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, severely injuring his spinal cord. He was diagnosed as a quadriplegic. In 2001, Sam founded Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. His team earned the Indy 500 pole in 2011 and has won more Indy Lights championships than any other team.

    Despite his success as an owner and businessman, nothing compares to being behind the wheel. So in 2013, Sam agreed to partner with a team of Arrow engineers determined to make his dream come true—Sam would drive again.

  • “We are giving back that which was taken from him. That is the greatest feeling in the world and the singular reason this project is the most significant project I’ve ever been a part of.”

    – Noel Marshall, Arrow
    Sam Project V2.0 Co-Driver


    In June 2013, engineers and medical researchers joined forces to work toward a common vision—modifying a car to be safely driven at speed by head movements for a quadriplegic race driver. This is a Semi-Autonomous Motorcar. We call it SAM.

    In the project's first year, innovators at Arrow Electronics, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Falci Adaptive Motorsports and the Air Force Research Laboratory integrated separate steering, acceleration and braking controls into a seamless system. They transformed what seemed like an impossible dream into reality—and they did it in less than a year.

  • “This is a team effort to give freedom to those that don't have the mobility the rest of us enjoy. I hope that this project entices other innovators to innovate new and interesting ways to better society.”

    – Joshua Parrish, Arrow


    How do you modify a car so someone unable to move from his shoulders down can safely drive it? SAM engineers launched the project with a question—what if you turned the driver’s head into a joystick? In SAM version 1.0, Ball Aerospace provided a system of infrared cameras and sensors that track head movements in real time to do just that.

    In version 2.0, Arrow and technology partner Freescale Semiconductor upgraded the infrared cameras to respond to the driver’s more nuanced head movements. Acceleration and braking are combined into a single mouth device, providing more realistic “pedal” response and improved transitions. Now the driver can navigate tight turns left and right, even while driving up and down hills, found on more complex road course tracks.

  • “The great thing about the SAM project isn’t that we are doing something out of the ordinary. We are taking existing technology and stretching its limits to see how far it can go. The real achievement is showing the world technology leaders can enrich the lives of those around us. That is the true nature of engineering.”

    – Andrew Dawes, Arrow
    Sam Project V1.0 Co-Driver


    Initial tests showed the system worked but encountered some problems near sunrise and sunset. At those times of day, the sun was low over the horizon and caused interference with the infrared cameras. Tinting the windows blocked enough light for the system to perform in any conditions. And the original cameras didn’t capture enough range of head motion to steer through tight turns.

    Developing the infrared camera system was only the first step. Translating that sensory data into actual car movements required some innovation. For version 1.0, the Arrow team engineered a central processor that interprets the camera information and controls rotary actuators attached to the gas pedal, brake pedal and steering wheel. In version 2.0, the central processor and systems integration have been upgraded.

  • “Our objective was never only how fast Sam Schmidt can drive on a racetrack. It has always been about designing a car that a quadriplegic can really drive and maybe change the world for many people.”

    – Chakib Loucif, Arrow


    On May 18, 2014, Sam drove for the first time since his accident in 2000. As a competing driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he reached a top speed of 97 mph. While he did not qualify for the 2014 Indy 500—which was never his goal—his incredible feat inspired his family, his team and millions of fans on television. It also earned Sam yet again the respect of competing racers across generations.

    A week later, he completed more laps at Indy, reaching a top speed of 107 mph.

    In April 2015, Sam will drive the twisty 1.9-mile road course at the Long Beach Grand Prix.


    This story isn't just about racing. Because driving is so much more than getting around a track or from point A to point B.

    The SAM car is designed to restore independence, control and a sense of accomplishment to a qualified disabled driver. The technology breaks down barriers and opens new physical and emotional horizons. With a little help, we all can be the drivers of our own lives.