The first state in the nation to grant self-driving car testing permits just granted the nation’s first autonomous vehicle-related driver’s license to a quadriplegic man.
The state of Nevada granted Sam Schmidt with a license to drive a semi-autonomous test car on public roads under restricted conditions. Earlier this year, Schmidt drove more than 150 mph in the Arrow SAM Car during demonstration laps at the Indy 500.
Schmidt used to be a race car driver, but lost his ability to drive years ago during a near-fatal speedway crash. You can view the video that tells the story at the Arrow website.
Arrow Electronics designed the SAM car for Schmidt in 2014. During 2015, they worked together in Schmidt’s home state of Nevada for the state to revise regulations allowing Schmidt to drive on roads in addition to race tracks.
Schmidt is able to control the car, a modified Corvette Z06, using his voice, head, and breath to steer, accelerate, and brake. The state says it qualifies as autonomous under its rules because Schmidt does not have “full active control” of the car, according to an email.
Schmidt celebrated receiving his license yesterday with a few laps around a racing track and on public roads near the facility in Nevada.
“I can’t even begin to explain just how much this provisional driver’s license, and the mobility and independence it represents, mean to me,” Schmidt said.
Supporting the technology has helped to deliver “a technology that has the potential to bring freedom to those who have physical disabilities,” Arrow Electronics said in a statement.
Nevada was the first state in the U.S. to pass a law allowing for operating and testing autonomous vehicles. That rule was enacted in 2011.