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!

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