LONG BEACH, Calif. — Mario Andretti will get back into a race car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to go head-to-head in semi-autonomous vehicles against paralyzed former driver Sam Schmidt.
The race will be May 13 on the 2.439-mile permanent road course at Indianapolis.
Schmidt was paralyzed from the neck down from a crash while testing an Indy car in 2000. He’ll drive the Z06 SAM Car, a semi-autonomous vehicle that global technology company Arrow Electronics modified for him. Sensors mounted on a headset connect to infrared cameras mounted on the dashboard and detect Schmidt’s head-tilt motions to steer.
A sip-and-puff device that Schmidt breathes into enables him to accelerate and brake. Voice commands switch gears and turn the SAM Car on and off.
"It’s always exciting when I can get in this awesome car and go fast," Schmidt said. "However, this time will have extra meaning as I never had a chance to race against Mario during my driving career. He is a true legend that is world renowned and I appreciate his willingness to participate and showcase the next evolution of this technology."
Andretti, who is 77, will use the same technology to drive an Arrow-modified Stingray SAM Car.
It’s a great opportunity to see what (the project) is all about," Andretti said. "I feel like I’m really, really going to be struggling. I just asked for 70 more horsepower and they haven’t said anything. It’s going to be interesting on the road course. There will be a lot more work to do and a lot more braking. Hopefully, that will work in my favour. We’re going to have it out, big time. I’m sure he’ll be buying (dinner) that night."
The race will benefit Conquer Paralysis Now, a non-profit organization for spinal cord injury research and treatment founded by Schmidt.