Frankenstein’s RC Car: A Skeleton for an Autonomous Vehicle

(First order of business, we would like to greet our Energy System’s expert Ross Han a happy birthday!)

It’s been a while since we had last update all of our follower(s). We have made a significant amount of progress lately and it is definitely due time to show and tell what we’ve been up to. Once we had received our senors and GPS unit, it was time to assemble our car.

One of the challenging modules needed to implement our car is a way for our vehicle to know, geographically, where it is located at any second. With the help of our Adafruit Ultimate GPS, a very useful Python tutorial for implementing GPS (thanks to, and an external antennae, we were able to successfully find the longitude and latitude of our vehicle via satellite.

Location/GPS Module

Our BeagleBone Black with the Adafruit Ultimate GPS + External Antennae

An integral part of our design is the communication line from our sensory units to our BeagleBone Black, which will use this information in order to command our motor controls. This week, we were able to received data from our ultrasonic sensors to our MSP430 micro-controller, where we were able to detect any obstructions directly in front of the sensory units. This data is processed within the MSP430 and then sent to the BeagleBone via GPIO ports in the form of analog high and analog low. Our BeagleBone will use this information to process a course of action our vehicle will take, given the presence of obstructions during its journey.

Sensor Module

Data being sent from our sensors, to our MSP430, and finally to our BeagleBone Black via I/O ports

Our motor control expert, John, was able to take apart our 1/8th scale RC car and solder wires from the native motor controls of the vehicle to our BeagleBone. Through testing, we found that the car is responsive to as low as 3.3V, which is the maximum voltage a BeagleBone GPIO port is capable of sending. We might want to have a faster vehicle later on in our design process, but for now this is a sufficient solution for our testing phase.

Motor Control Module

1/8th scale vehicle, 1/1nth scale human

We definitely plan to have a working prototype within the week, so stay tuned for updates. The days of waiting in line at the SAC or Union are almost (hopefully) over!

Hardware and other shenanigans: An initial step in design choice

Thanks to our industry sponsors, Texas Instruments, we can finally begin the retrofitting process of our autonomous vehicle. Our hardware line-up consists the likes of the BeagleBone Black, TI CC3200 LaunchPad and other tools we will address in this blog update!

Firstly, we would like to address the fact that both our team-members, John and Ross, had went to Taco-Bell during our last weekly meeting without other members. With this out of the way, we can proceed with why we chose our specific components.

Single Board Computer – BeagleBone Black

Serving as the controller for our motor components, as well as the receiver/processor for our information sent by our MSP430 and CC3200 units, the BeagleBone will be the ‘heart’ of our vehicle.

Microcontrollers – MSP430 (Value Line and FR 6989)

Our MSP430 controllers will be used as the receivers of our IMU and Front Sensor data. This includes collision, angular velocity, position and level information.

Wifi- CC3200

Acting as our Wifi module, the CC3200 will be the means of communication between our vehicle and any external devices for location information. We aim to use the CC3200 to give the vehicle awareness of its location as well as, through the use of a mobile device, the estimated time of arrival for the end user.

With the arrival of our sensory components in the near future, and our 1/8th scale car, we will have all the parts needed in order to have a draft vehicle to program and debug until next semester. Thanks for reading, and we hope to have an update following the software development of these products within the next two weeks!




Bringing autonomous delivery to the 40 Acres

Driver-less cars are an emerging technology which has the potential to impact many different industries. However, many people are afraid of the technology and its effect on the future of driving. Our group hopes to shed light, and potentially lunch, on the benefits of autonomous technology! We aim to develop a retrofitted RC car that will display the safety and usefulness of autonomous vehicles in the real world. The RC car will do so by performing simple tasks on the UT campus, such as delivering mail or food to requesting students or faculty.


This blog is meant to document our development and progress of our autonomous delivery service. With the help of our industry sponsor, Texas Instruments, and our faculty mentor, Dr. David Pan, we hope to make UT Austin the first university in the world to have autonomous delivery for its students!