A robotic car, also called a driverless car, no longer seems as farfetched a reality today as it would have done about ten years ago. Although transportation has taken great leaps in the advent of modern technology (exploration of outer space and other planets is no longer impossibility), the vehicles we use today cost us more resources than we are able to replenish.
The development, hence, of the robotic car has become something to watch these days, and companies are investing in these autonomous vehicles that are more "human-friendly" and easier to operate.
What are the advantages of a robotic car?
A robotic car comes with an autopilot system, and does not need an operator to drive from one place to another. This considerably lessens human effort, if not eliminates it. It enables people to turn their attention to other tasks during car rides (particularly long ones), such as rest or conversation. In the military, this allows the deployment of vehicles into dangerous war zones without risking human operators in the process. There are also advanced systems available to offer people to steer the car, via advanced computer software linked to GPS, radar, or even cameras. As car accidents kill about 35,000 people every year in the USA, and 1.2 million around the world, robotic cars reduce the possibility of accidents attributed to reckless or drunk driving.
Regarding the problem with space, a robotic car does not impose the traditional parking lot dilemma. The vehicle can drop you off at work and then drive itself back home or elsewhere to recharge or refuel itself. This is a great convenience when overcongestion is a problem and subsidies of free parking are given by a number of urban districts.
Furthermore, this type of vehicle does not contribute to the current pollution problem by emitting greenhouse effect gases. It is currently developed to run on electrical charging, and unlike present electric cars, research reveals that this poses no problem in battery shortage, as robotic cars will detect low power levels and subsequently recharge itself.
What are the disadvantages of a robotic car?
As great as this all sounds, the main problem of using a robotic car is that it only works if everybody else is using a driverless car. Driving one entails four vital functions: it should be able to understand its immediate environment (sensors), know where it is and where it wants to go (navigation), find its way in traffic (motion planning) and operate vehicle mechanics (actuation). Cars on autopilot systems need to be quick enough to calculate moving vehicles in their vicinities, and this is not effective considering the unpredictability of human drivers. And athough existing infrastructures may be utilized, it is likely that specialized highways and road systems will be needed to accommodate and complement driverless cars.
What do I need to build a robotic car?
Anyone who has ever played with a remote-control car as a child has dreamed of this moment. What if you could drive a real deal BMW down the road using nothing but your smartphone?
Although you don't see robotic cars cruising around the highway everyday because they are still largely unavailable on the market, most of the benefits are not tangible. Yet. However, you can still build your own robotic car, though not essentially the futuristic kind that you can actually ride in. Think recreational.
There are basically five things you need to build your own robotic car. The essentials are: a chassis, a remote control kit, batteries, motors, and wheels. If you're the type that balks at the messy details of all the technicalities of programming, it's highly suggested you get assistance from an expert.
The chassis is the robot's main frame, the body which holds everything together: the motor, wheels, the remote control receiver, and the batteries. In a robot with limited power supply (i.e. a battery) the power to weight ratio has to be kept maximum. This can be done by limiting the weight of the chassis. It is highly recommended that the chassis be made of lightweight material, such as plastic or light metal. The motors drive the car around, and respond to the on and off control by the remote.
It's important to find the commitment to stick with building a robot car. Whether you choose to start from scratch or decide to purchase an online ready-to-assemble car kit, the technicalities can be a little daunting for beginners. However, if you're hell-bent on seeing your wheels burn tyre tracks on the driveway, this project is well worth it. In the near future, the robot car could very well be your own BMW.