Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Semi-autonomous motorcar

From Arrow Electronics
Sam Schmidt is a former Indy racecar driver who was in a driving accident in 2000 and since then he has been a quadriplegic. Arrow Electronics approached him in 2013 to participate in their project of designing a car that he would be able to drive. The project, known as the SAM Project (Semi-Autonomous Motorcar), has developed to the point where Schmidt has driven a number of times.

In May 2014 he tried the first version of the car, in which his head functioned as a joystick. Further developments lead to his driving the very curvy 1.9-mile (3-kilometer) street course at the Long Beach Grand Prix in April 2015.

The project website: http://www.arrowsamcar.com/

On the project website there is a particularly useful section "The technology of tomorrow" (click Explore the car). There are very clear visuals and short descriptions of how each part of the car works.

Explore the car: http://www.arrow.com/sam/thecar/

The latest version of the car uses four infrared cameras mounted to the windshield that track left and right movements of Schmidt's head through reflective markers. The information gets sent to a computer in the back of the car that calculates where to steer the car. Acceleration and braking is done with "sip and puff" technology similar to wheelchairs in which sipping on a straw slows the car down and blowing into it makes the car go faster.

Students can compare these developments with earlier versions of the car.

There are many articles about this technology. Here are three that I found interesting:

From Wired: This Quadriplegic Racer Drives a Corvette by Tilting His Head

From Gizmodo: A Quadriplegic Racer Will Steer a Stingray With His Head at the Indy 500

From SciTech: Quadriplegic Drives Racecar Using Aerospace Technology

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