Quadriplegic Man Drives Race Car Using His Brain In Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience
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Featured Image Credit: Falci Adaptive Motorsports/The Denver Channel
A quadriplegic man was able to control a NASCAR race car using only his mind thanks to incredible 'brain-controlled driving technology'.
German Aldana was in a car crash at age 16 while not wearing a seat belt, and suffered a spinal cord injury that left him without the use of his limbs.
Aldana described having 'frustrations' over losing his independence, but he was able to regain some control on Wednesday (18 May), when he drove the race car around Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado Springs.
With the help of Falci Adaptive Motorsports, which brings the sport to people with mobility impairments, and a microchip implanted on the surface of his brain, Aldana was able to manipulate the car's throttle to drive it around the track.
According to The Denver Channel, Dr. Scott Falci, neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center’s Falci Institute for Spinal Cord Injuries, explained: "What we're doing here today is we're watching our driver, who is spinal cord injured, drive a 850-horsepower NASCAR Cup car around this track hands-free, feet-free with our specialised helmet, but throttle control is entirely with the brain [sic].
"[The microchip] can pick up electrical changes from the brain. It sends a signal down a cable that's implanted underneath his skin that goes to a little microprocessor. So anytime our driver, German, thinks 'throttle on', the computers and the algorithm know to send it to the throttle of the car."
Footage from Aldana's experience shows him sat behind the dashboard of the car and making his way around the track, with Falci Adaptive Motorsports explaining Aldana's experience marked the 'first public demonstration of [its] Brain-Controlled driving technology'.
"Our driver, German Aldana Zuniga, officially drove the #78 NASCAR around the Pikes Peak International Raceway oval with our safety driver, Ryan Dussex, on standby," the post explained.
Aldana later told The Denver Channel he 'did not think [he] would drive a car', adding: "It didn't cross my mind, you know. But driving it myself and seeing what I could do, the fear just went away."
Dr. Falci has expressed hopes to be able to allow people to control 'all aspects of the race car', while The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is hopeful the innovative technology can be developed to allow those with disabilities to have more independence with tasks such as driving electric wheelchairs, controlling prosthetics and controlling home communication systems.
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