Indy driver gains first autonomous vehicle license in U.S.

Sam Schmidt, who made headlines by breaking speed records in a semi-autonomous modified Corvette Z06 during the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year, is about to receive the first autonomous vehicle restricted driver’s license to be issued in the United States.

Schmidt, prior to an accident in 2000 that rendered him quadriplegic, was one of the top Indy Racing League drivers during the late ’90s. His accident while preparing for the 2000 Indy season may have ended his racing career, but it hasn’t kept him from tearing up the track and breaking speed records.

Partnering with Arrow Electronics, Sam Schmidt drove a semi-autonomous car an incredible 152 mph without using his arms or legs. This vehicle was fitted with sensors and cameras that enabled him to control the vehicle with his head, breathing, and voice commands while its intelligent on-board computer handled the rest.

While that speed might not be a record-breaking pace on the icon Indy track under normal conditions, it provided a big proof of concept for semi-autonomous vehicles that can be driven without the use of the driver’s arms or legs.

Nevada license allows open road use

Now, Sam Schmidt will be able to put this technology to use on our slower, and more crowded roadways. The state of Nevada, a state that prides itself on paving the way for autonomous vehicle testing, is issuing his license so he can drive his semi-autonomous vehicle on the open road.

This technology offers an opportunity for disabled drivers that have lost their ability to drive due to physical limitations hope. If it catches on and spreads into the consumer market, quadriplegic individuals that are currently dependent on others to drive them to appointments and to run errands will have the freedom to drive themselves wherever they want to go.

The technology developed by Arrow Electronics is still new, and even since Schmidt’s record-breaking run earlier this year, continues to be improved on. There is no word yet on if or when this technology will make its way to the public.

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