May 30, 2011

Senior Project Presentation Preview

So When You Come to My Presentation, What Are You Going to Hear? (in 300 words or less):

My project started in my head. I've always imagined driving an autonomous car (paradox, no?), so I thought, why not build a miniature one? There are three components needed to automate a car: a body, a brain, and a pair of eyes. For my body I repurposed an RC car, making use of its chassis, wheels, and motors. My brain is an Arduino, a microcontroller development platform that is essentially a mini-computer. I've written code for the Arduino which is executed when it is turned on. My eyes consist of an infrared sensor mounted on a rotating servo. During the assembly of my car, I had many issues, the main one being with my steering. At first I wasn't sure how to get the wheels to turn without damaging the motor. The solution was to provide as much power as possible. My car still did not steer, though, until I inserted a newly bought battery pack. Once my car could drive itself, it came time for the logic. I devised a simple solution - take a reading from each side of the car, and have it go straight whilst avoiding collisions. There were sporadic issues with the implementation, resulting me in replacing a sonar sensor I'd planned to use with my infrared, but in the end my car looked like magic. Now I'm most certainly not the first person to have achieved such a feat. The idea of autonomous cars dates back to 1939, where they were supposed to move along roads lined with electromagnets and communicate between cars using radios. More recently, cars are packed with computers and sensors, and Google has proven that they are very safe. How soon consumers will own autonomous cars is uncertain, but the Futurama is coming!