An Autonomous RC Car

A while back, I posted about Autonomous Robotics and how I’d love to do an autonomous racing series. Last week, I attended the inaugural London Machine Learning Group meetup (which was fantastic, by the way), where David Singleton gave a presentation on his self-driving RC Car. My interest was piqued. How much fun does that sound?!

Today, I did some more thinking about it, and I’ve put together the beginnings of an equipment list for the project.

  • Aston Martin V8 Vantage RC Car. I’ve already got one of these, and I don’t think I’ve played with it in ages. Might as well hack it apart, then! (Also, Aston Martins are awesome.)
  • RaspberryPi. This isn’t out yet, but boy am I excited. It looks like it should have the processing power required to perform all the calculations locally, and should be small enough to fit in the RC car itself.
  • Minoru 3D Webcam. In my fourth year, a friend was using this as a range finder (and it looks like there’s some open source code to do this), so this camera could perform two great functions: firstly, the “basic” self-driving task using images; and second, potentially acting as a range-finder for some more advanced mapping.

The ultimate aim for this would not only be for the car to drive itself, but for the car to learn the course in the same way racing drivers do. For example, the car may drive itself around the course, producing an internal map. The car could then use some kind of genetic algorithm to attempt to define and follow a route around the course for the aim of getting the fastest lap time.

Ambitious, hey?

There are a few immediate issues I can foresee:

  • Power. The RaspberryPi will require around 4xAA batteries to power it, and the camera may require the same again. I could end up with an RC Car full of batteries that won’t move anywhere because it’s too heavy…
  • Control. David Singleton used an Arduino board wired into the car’s controller to pass instructions to the car, but if I want to keep everything onboard then I’ll need to do something else. Ideally, this should work alongside the standard wireless controller so I can still retain some ability to control the car.
  • I’m being a bit ambitious. One step at a time, Griff…
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