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Nevada issues nation's first semi-autonomous driver's license to Sam Schmidt

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【Summary】This past September of 2016, the Nevada state government issued Schmidt a special driver’s license, allowing him to drive in a modified 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Z06.

Original Claire    Oct 17, 2016 7:30 PM PT
Nevada issues nation's first semi-autonomous driver's license to Sam Schmidt
Claire Pu

By Claire Pu

Sam Schmidt, a paralyzed former IndyCar driver and "Press Your Luck" contestant, became the first person in United States to hold a restricted semi-autonomous driver's license.

This past September of 2016, the Nevada state government issued Schmidt a special driver's license, allowing him to drive in a modified 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. There are four infrared cameras installed on the car's dashboard that can capture his head movement and relay those motions into various driving actions. He needs to wear a headset which controls the vehicle. He blows air into a tube attached to the headset that allows him to accelerate while inhaling allows him to brake. 

The technology was developed in 2014 by a fortune 500 company called Arrow Electronics. Over the past year, the company and Schmidt have worked with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to update regulations that provide safety buffers to allow Schmidt to drive on state roads and maintain safety for other motorists. Until now, Schmidt has demonstrated the vehicle at several important events, reaching a top speed of 152 mph at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May.

"When you think a car like this is only helping one person, you quickly find out it helps many and it even helps our country. Innovation provides freedom, and that's what Sam just got and that's what the state of Nevada is helping us give him." Michael Long, president and CEO of Arrow Electronics told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Schmidt was caught in a wreck in 2000 on his test drive at Walt Disney World Speedway, which severely injured his spinal cord. He was later diagnosed as a quadriplegic. No longer being able to drive a racing car, he did not lose heart, but decided to divert his passion to running a racing car team. Inspired by meeting tetraplegic Formula One team owner Sir Frank Williams, he then founded Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which has become the most successful team in the history of the Indy Lights Series. The team won the 2004 series championship, along with the 2006 and 2007 titles.

"My dream since I was 5 years old was to be an Indy race car driver," said Schmidt, "It wasn't my wife's dream, it wasn't my family's dream, but what that dream has put them through these last 17 years hasn't been great," Schmidt said. "To work as hard as we've worked, and have them stick by me and to do this today is enough."

According to the Nevada state regulations, Schmidt's restricted driver's license requires him to have a passenger on the car at all times, and if necessary, the passenger should take full control of the vehicle. Also, while driving on Nevada roads, a "pilot vehicle" must always drive in front of Schmidt's car, serving as a barrier for other cars sharing the roads.

Nevada is pushing for more autonomous driving technology, and has given permission to automakers such as Kia and Mercedes to test their self-driving cars on the state's roads.

"We've opened the door for Arrow, so the next step for them is to keep improving the technology," Jude Hurin, official from Nevada DMV told the reporters. "Our hope is to get them to partner with a manufacturer in the future to take this to the next level of providing this to all citizens."

resource from: Las Vegas Review Journal, Autoweek

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