Inspired by the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenges, the next phase of the project after the initial electric conversion is to automate the driving capabilities of the vehicle using the internal computer. There are 4 key areas to control from the software:

  1. Braking – To provide computer controlled braking, a custom interface between the mechanical brakes and and the software will be built.  This is not unlike a truck pulling a trailer and signaling the trailer brakes to engage when the truck brakes engage.
  2. Steering – To provide computer controlled steering, a motor will be attached to the steering system and a custom interface between the software and the motor will be built, most likely with an Ardiuno, to provide precise rotational step instructions to the motor for fine grain steering control. The computer will calculate the exact turning radius required and instruct the motor to turning X degrees in a given direction.
  3. Acceleration – The vehicle throttling is controlled by a Hall Effect pedal sending an electrical signal to the controller to accelerate.  A custom interface needs to be built to allow the software to mimic the electrical signals of the throttle.
  4. Sensors – All vehicle sensors are 12V so custom hardware has been built to toggle these 12V analog signals with a 5V digital signal sent from the internal computer.  This is currently operational and allows control of the vehicle lighting, signals, and horn via any mobile device. Below is an actual screenshot of the control tab of the Android app which allows the user to control the standard vehicle sensors.  The first live test was honking the horn using the mobile app.

Control Tab

Phase 2 of the project is currently underway and seeking donations via Kickstarter.

For more information on autonomous vehicles, check out Google’s Driverless Car.