Ball Aerospace and the U.S. Air Force Unveil Technologies that Revolutionize the Life of a Quadriplegic Race Car Driver

May 06, 2014

BOULDER, Colo., May 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) today demonstrated new human performance technologies that help quadriplegic former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt to safely drive a Corvette C7 'Stingray.'



Ball and the AFRL are collaborating on the initiative known as the SAM Project, standing for "semi-autonomous motorcar" with Arrow Electronics, Inc., Schmidt Peterson Motor Sports and Falci Adaptive Motorsports. 

The demonstration took place at an airstrip near the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio.

"In our work for the Air Force, we're engineering technologies to prevent and lessen future injuries by learning how humans can effectively interact with machines," said Tim Choate, Aerospace & Cyberspace Technologies senior business manager, Ball Aerospace. "These technologies are designed to restore independence and enhance warfighter autonomy, and have the added benefit of introducing a new generation of mobility and safety technologies that are critically important for disabled individuals."

Ball Aerospace led the creation of the human-machine interface and the driver guidance system that are key elements of the SAM Project. The Ball engineering team identified the driver's abilities and matched them to what is needed to drive the car. Critical to this process was determining the optimal combination of machine-controlled and human-controlled functions. 

Mr. Schmidt was severely injured in an IndyCar accident 14 years ago that left him with no mobility from the shoulders down. Despite his injuries, Mr. Schmidt has the ability to move his head, which will allow the Ball team to convert the driver's head movements into computer commands. These commands flow to the SAM vehicle's central processor, to control the car's steering, acceleration and braking. 

The SAM Project is a collaborative venture between Ball, AFRL, Arrow, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Falci Adaptive Motorsports.  The race car is the first of its kind developed to be driven on a race track and controlled only by an individual's head. Schmidt will officially demonstrate the SAM vehicle at speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. For more information, visit

Ball Corporation (NYSE: BLL) supplies innovative, sustainable packaging solutions for beverage, food and household products customers, as well as aerospace and other technologies and services primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ 14,500 people worldwide and reported 2013 sales of $8.5 billion. For more information, visit, or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.


The SAM (semi-autonomous motorcar) Project is an innovative project in which a 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray car has been modified with integrated advanced electronics and a human-to-machine interface so a qualified quadriplegic driver can safely operate it under racetrack conditions.  The concept of modifying cars so disabled racers might return to the racetrack is championed by Colorado neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Falci. The SAM Project is a collaborative venture between Arrow Electronics, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Falci Adaptive Motorsports and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.  More information about the project is available at

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