Self Racing Cars Down Under

Self racing cars are small-scale model cars (think radio controlled cars) with the smarts to race themselves around a track. There’s a growing community of people who design, build, and race these in their spare time.

Putting one together involves taking an RC car chassis, putting a computer onto it such as the Raspberry Pi, Beagle Bone, or ODROID, getting some power to the computer, mounting a small camera to the front of the car, and loading up some software to take that camera image and steer based on what it sees. That’s the overview; of course it’s a lot more involved than that — the software is where the real competition is at the moment. It’s no easy task for a computer program to be able to take in and process images fast enough to get more than waking speed around a track without crashing!

Pretty soon you have some pretty incredible results, even outpacing what humans can do when controlling the cars. That’s right, these self racing cars are now better at racing than humans:

And sometimes it’s just exciting to get one lap done successfully:

I was able to attend the first Self Racing Cars (full size) event in Willows CA, and I brought my Pixhawk-based self driving car along for the ride. It wasn’t working at the start of the day when I brought it along, but during the day, Chris Anderson, who runs the DIYRobocars events, was kind enough to spend a lot of time with me and the car, tuning the speed controllers and configuring the software. And by day two, we had our first lap!

So, based on the amazing things that are happening in this growing technology, we’re putting together a building and racing league in Melbourne, Australia, with regular build and race events. So if you’re building one of these cars, get in touch, and we’ll start setting up some race days.

It all starts out with some pretty small cars to begin with, with little computers on top:

And a selection of pretty rapidly developing software:

They’re getting quite fast with just yellow line following:

Here’s what the car sees when it’s driving; it’s not meant to look too much like what the Terminator sees, that’s just accidental.

Let’s hope one day we can drive as well as humans through rugged terrain:

And finally, for the community, here is some more details for running the events.

Next post: How To Join Us And Build Your Own Self Racing Car.



The Australian Robotics Society is a community of robot builders.

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