SAM Project Media Kit

The Semi-Autonomous Motorcar Project

SAM is an innovative project that modified a 2014 Corvette C7 ‘Stingray’ so a qualified quadriplegic driver could safely operate it under racetrack conditions. The SAM project gave Sam Schmidt, an injured IndyCar driver with no ability to move his arms or legs, the ability to drive at high speeds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Ball-developed human-machine interface technology is the first to enable a quadriplegic to safely control and steer a car. The SAM project will help inspire disabled people to realize they can be more independent with the help of technology and will be of crucial importance for a new generation of mobility and safety technologies.

SAM is part of a wider Ball Aerospace effort to explore man-machine teaming approaches that range from fully autonomous systems with no human input to minimally autonomous systems with primarily human inputs. Beyond empowering disabled people, these capabilities have both commercial and government applications.

Ball Aerospace has long worked with the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop novel available technology and apply it to real systems. These systems are designed to operate semi-autonomously with human input at critical decision-making points. Human-machine teaming can enhance human performance and capabilities through two-way communication and shared decision-making.

Additional photos available on Flickr.


SAM Program Manager Scott Grigsby

Ball Program Manager


Scott Grigsby is the Ball program manager for the Semi-Autonomous Motorcar (SAM) project.

 He is responsible for organizing and managing the technical design and development of the Ball human interface systems to ensure successful delivery, integration, and testing in the demonstration vehicle.

 He is also responsible for leading and coordinating all of the programmatic aspects of the project. These logistics have been especially challenging for the SAM project due to the short development timeline and technical complexity.  

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The SAM car - A specially modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray

Quick Facts

  • Ball’s systems engineering on the SAM project is the first to allow a quadriplegic to control and steer a car at speed.
  • The driver’s three degrees of freedom were converted into a system that enabled safe operation of a car at high speeds. The motion tracking technology used in the car is identical to that used by Hollywood and the gaming industry to do motion capture of human movements.
  • Ball used a racetrack simulator to test the technology with Mr. Schmidt. On his first day in the simulator he went 106 mph. In his second session, Sam completed a lap of the 2.5 mile Indy oval timed at 42.55 seconds – an incredible average speed of 211.5 mph!
  • After completing his first run in the simulator, Sam commented “I’m speechless… and that doesn’t happen very often.”
  • Sam has now driven over 6 hours in the simulator on not only the Indianapolis oval but the Indy road course, the Las Vegas Speedway, Phoenix, and the Mid-Ohio Raceway.
  • On April 7, 2014, Sam got into the SAM Corvette for the first time and in a driving rain, completed two laps of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 30 mph. The next day, under much better weather conditions, Sam drove over 20 laps (50 miles) at speeds up to 63 mph.
  • It had been over 14 years and 3 months since the last time he drove a car.
  • The entire Ball effort, from initial concept discussion to Sam’s first test drive on the track took just 292 days.




SAM In the News 

May 28, 2014: WPAFB News Video

The SAM (Semi-Autonomous Motorcar) Project

May 26, 2014: Video 

SAM Technology

May 23, 2014: ESPN Sport Science Video 

Sam and S.A.M.

May 8, 2014: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

711 Human Performance Wing helps quadriplegic drive a car safely

May 7, 2014: Denver Post

Ball, Arrow technology may let paralyzed race-car driver hit 100 again

May 7, 2014: Dayton Business Journal

Why a Corvette ride at Wright-Patt will go down in history

May 6, 2014 : Dayton Daily News

Paralyzed race-car driver takes Corvette for ride at Wright-Patt

May 6, 2014: Aerospace America

Quadriplegic Drives Racecar Using Aerospace Technology

May 5, 2014: NBC Sports

IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt to demo hands/foot-free Corvette

May 5, 2014: Indianapolis Star

IndyCar owner Sam Schmidt chosen to unveil innovative hand, foot-free Corvette







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