The Car

It has taken us more than a decade to perfect this prototype and bring it to the market as a fully functional cost effective Open Source DIY Hybrid RC Car. It is the perfect gadget for folks young and old to build and play while having countless hours of pure fun! The more serious users could use this car as a vehicle (pun intended) to learn concepts in mechanical engineering, electronics and computer science in a nice and engaging way. Think of this as a scaled down version of the Autonomous Google Car – except that this is a DIY Toy that can be used for pure entertainment or can be mixed with a curriculum for stimulating STEM education!

Features of the Super Car

  • Open Source Hardware
  • Open Source Software
  • DIY Car kit (motors, car shell, motor driver, RC receiver and transmitter)
  • Packaged with an Arduino and Ultrasonic Sensor
  • Has 4 intelligent Rainbow RGB Leds that make up the front and back lights
  • Can work in RC Mode, Assisted Drive Mode and Autonomous Mode
  • 24 Pin RC Bus Interface that can interface with Raspberry PI, Teensy or any MicroController
  • 6 general purpose IO interfaces with a 5V power rail.
  • Affordable Price

The car can be programmed to work in the following modes:
1. Pure RC mode -  In this mode the car is used as a traditional RC Car. It does not require an on board microcomputer. You can assemble the car and play with it like a traditional 27/49 Mhz – RC Car – just like the ones that you find in toy stores using a four function remote control (forward/backward/left/right)
 
2. RC Assist Mode – In this mode, in addition to using the assembled car like in the Pure RC Mode, you can make the computer takes over control in case the car is  about to hit a wall for example. The remote control is selectively disabled by the computer based on readings from the onboard sensors and the car is driven by the computer away from the obstacle for a short while before control is transferred back to the user. 
 
3. Computerized RC Mode – in this mode, all signals from the remote control are read and handled by the computer and all decisions to drive the car are made by the computer based on cues provided by the user.
 
4. Autonomous Mode – in this mode, the computer drives the car all by itself. The remote could be totally disabled or could be used to produce special effects that do not affect the driving but produce audiovisual effects such as turn on lights, turn on sound effects etc.
 

 5. Internet/Mobile Mode - To use the car in this mode, you need to use the Spark Core chip  instead of the standard Arduino that comes shipped with the product. Sample programs will be soon available to drive the car using any Computer/iOS/Android Device with internet access.

rc-front rc-top

Here is a list of some of the play paradigms that the car could be used for that are not possible with the previous generation of RC Cars:

    • Drive car in open loop mode without sensors
    • Drive car and stop at wall
    • Drive car, stop at wall and turn on all lights to red
    • Drive car, stop at wall, turn on all lights to red and play a tune
    • Drive car in ambulance mode
    • Drive car in police mode
    • Drive car in computer assisted mode – computer takes over control from driver in case there is danger
    • Drive car in computer assisted mode -help driver avoid hitting obstacles
    • Drive car in computer assisted mode and turn on the blinkers when the driver turns the car left or right.
    • Drive car in human assisted mode where the human driver takes over from computer
    • Drive car in fully autonomous mode
    • Program car to drive the fastest to the destination
    • Program the car to drive to the destination without hitting any obstacles
    • Timed Relay races
    • Musical Cars

The  inspiration for this project came from two directions:

1. Nostalgia crept in into an electrical engineer who took an “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” computer science class… The robot in the video shown below was created as a final project way back in 1993 (yes, that’s 1-9-9-3) and it still works!

2. Another group of engineers worked with a group of schools kids a decade ago hacking RC Cars . It was a lot of fun and we stumbled upon something kids (and some grown ups) love to do – build their own toys. 

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