A Car Just Got A License…Pretty Much
DETROIT (AP) — Former Indy Racing League driver Sam Schmidt has done a lot in the 16 years since an accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. He runs a racing team and a foundation. He’s raced a sailboat using his chin. But the man who raced in the Indianapolis 500 hasn’t been able to drive around his neighborhood – until now.
On Wednesday, Schmidt is set to receive the first license restricted to an autonomous vehicle in the U.S. The license allows him to drive on Nevada roads in his specially modified Corvette, which requires no hands on its steering wheel or feet on its pedals. Schmidt uses head motions to control the car’s direction.
READ MORE: AP
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“There are real barriers to transportation and we need to be clear about what those are and make sure we leverage the technology to address them,” said Claypool, who is wheelchair-bound but drives a $62,000 modified minivan.
Many companies are thinking inclusively. Google has worked closely with the blind while developing its self-driving cars. Tesla Motors has said it’s working on an urban transport vehicle that would accommodate wheelchairs. Arrow is working on other projects, including a modified bicycle for a paraplegic athlete.
“Sam is our astronaut,” said Joe Verrengia, Arrow’s global director of social responsibility.
Arrow is making its design and software freely available in the hope that other companies will build on what it has done. Over the next 18 months, Schmidt hopes to modify a more advanced, semi-autonomous car that could drive itself for short stretches and could help him override potential mistakes. Right now, for example, he could accidentally turn the car if he looks to the side when he means to go straight. A car that was watching the road ahead could correct that.
But for now, the license means an end to 16 years in the passenger seat of a conversion van for trips around town.
“My wife hates driving that van. It makes us look like we’re 75 and retired,” said Schmidt, 52.
Schmidt is thrilled by the pace of improvement in technology.
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