After suffering a life-altering crash in 2000 that severely injured his spinal cord, race car driver Sam Schmidt will finally be able to get back on the racetrack after 14 years at the upcoming Indianapolis 500 race later this month. In collaboration with Arrow Electronics, Sam will be driving a specially-outfitted 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray for four laps with a human-to-machine interface that lets him drive the car with millisecond response times using nothing but head and mouth movements. Impressed? This is how it works.

Semi-Autonomous Motorcar (SAM)

“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 human-to-machine interface uses reflective infrared markers attached to a hat and interior-mounted cameras to track Schmidt’s head movements before relaying that information to an onboard computer that responds to the movements within milliseconds. To speed up or slow down, Sam will tilt his head forward and backwards. To steer, he will lean his head left or right. To brake, he will bite down on a mouthpiece that simulates a brake pedal:


Developed by Ball Aerospace, the interface also integrates a GPS system that establishes virtual curbs at a distance of one meter from the track—creating an invisible and virtual bumper bowling-like barrier.

Ball Aerospace and Arrow are both hoping to integrate similar technologies into other applications including commercial vehicles, military vehicles and even consumer vehicles.


From Ball Aerospace:

“Different levels of autonomy can be applied to manage cyber systems and remotely piloted aircraft, allowing technology to mitigate the impact of workforce cuts. A human-machine interface can also be used to monitor human state sensing, operating to compensate for incapacitated pilots and drivers for momentary attention lapses. There are numerous other applications for incident commanders and first responders. These emerging technologies bridge the gap between humans and machines and allow people to do things they couldn’t do before.”


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.