Use iPhone to run yourself over


The Spirit of Berlin team has developed an iPhone app to remotely control a minivan. They didn’t have to do much to the vehicle to get this working because the platform was  developed for the 2007 Darpa Urban Challenge. The iPhone connects with the driving circuitry via WiFi and offers a gas button, a brake button, and a steering button to enable the accelerometer for turning. The front camera video is transmitted to the iPhone in real-time.

In the picture above you can see the operator in the center of the van’s camera view. It looks like the van’s top speed is limited, but remembering our own ineptitude in piloting RC vehicles, we hope this doesn’t result in a Darwin Award. We’ve embedded a video after the break. Everyone loves to see some Mario Kart reeneactment. You can catch some around 2:28 into the video. Enjoy.

[Thanks Miketron]


  1. wdfowty says:

    I smell demolition derby gone geek

  2. Shadyman says:

    “a break button,”

    Well… It IS a Dodge.

    Wait, nevermind, it’s still cool nonetheless. (Here’s hoping the iphone app had a BRAKE button instead :)

  3. jc says:

    @Shadyman — Beat me to it!

  4. TheKhakinator says:

    Dr. Horrible’s Horrible Van Remote.

  5. pedersencato says:

    Vehicular Manslaughter? There’s an app for that.

  6. Jimmy Sultan says:

    BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE! Why can’t half the population spell this one right?

  7. Mike Szczys says:

    @Shadyman: That’s a funny typo. Thank for pointing it out. Fixed.

  8. vash says:

    i actually like Dr.horribles controls better. did you notice how even though the iphone was straight the stearing was still off?

    now.. to het this on my pre… hmm….

  9. vash says:

    my appologies that was get this on the palm pre…

    also gotta make it a go cart…. and find a place to store red turtle shells….

  10. Clinefx1 says:

    Why would he every stand in front of it? That is just asking for trouble.

  11. hn says:

    robot car equals endless fun. they could post a “race simulator” in the airport which people can play with only to realize they’re actually steering a real car outside. we’ll need to call this “art” of course.

  12. Bond_James_Bond says:

    Surprised no one has mentioned my
    R/C BMW 750i in “Tomorrow Never Dies”.
    And my mastery of how to control it ;)

  13. Edd says:


  14. axllaruse says:

    Is your mother in law a B#&$H?

    Forget the hitman! Give her the key of your car and drive her to hell.

  15. axllaruse says:

    Sometimes, I found routers that disconnect the client or you have to reset them.

    I hope that doesn’t happen in their case.

    I would have some secondary way to communicate with the ban such as bluetooth or something of the kind.

  16. smilr says:

    I would definitely want some safeguards on this thing. Perhaps using bluetooth signal strength a pc in the car could determine that the controlling iPhone is too close and immediately hit the brakes / shutdown the engine.

    Sure, it would suck to have it pass by too close to you and stop mid pass. The problem is, if you end up sending it straight at yourself you are NOT going to think to hit the brake button. You will most likely drop the phone and RUN.

    That is another thing they could do – watch the iPhone accelerometer and disable the car in the event of a fumbled or dropped iPhone.

    It also bugs me that the tilt > wheel isn’t a one to one relationship. The farther over the iphone is tilted, the farther I would expect the wheel to be. As implemented tilting one way or the other just says “spin wheel that way”, rather than “spin wheel 15% to the right to match my 15% tilting of my input device” See how hard the guy has to work to get the wheel to stop at the center mark? He has to keep nudging the phone until the wheel is set. With a matched system just recenter the phone and you’re done.

    And why are the gas and brake buttons digital? All or nothing? He’d have to tap or pulse the buttons to achieve an intermediate throttle position or brake pressure. Make them freaking sliders so you can set intermediate values between full throttle and idle!

    Nifty concept – but a B- for execution at best!

  17. Nick says:

    I’m pretty sure that the iPhone has more than a 1-axis accelerometer in it. why not use the second axis to control the gas and brake? tilt away from you to speed up, tip it toward you to break.

  18. Louis II says:

    I always liked this one myself:

  19. Spanky says:

    Pretty cool. James Bond technology from 1997 becomes reality in 2009.

  20. Bond_James_Bond says:

    posers !!!

    here, this how it’s done !!

  21. max montana says:

    No , to make it fail safe they should that the brake is always on , so to use the car you would have to push the “release brake” button the whole time , otherwise it wont move.
    So if then the connection fails / iphone drops , the car will stop immediatly.

  22. morden says:

    They really need to implement some sort of dead zone for perfectly straight, where you have the tilt the phone past that degree before the wheel starts turning. That guy had a lot of trouble keeping the wheel at any sort of a stable position.

  23. DarkFader says:

    @Bond_James_Bond: well… it came to my mind as well as I used a search to find your comment.

  24. polymath says:

    I’m really glad I wasn’t the only one to remember the bond movie. I wonder how long it will be before the mythbusters pick up this method for all their RC stuff.

  25. Wwhat says:

    If I ever find an iphone I’m breaking it into bits immediately.
    These things embody what’s annoying me.

    Well I might take out the battery first and use that for projects, after I etched off markings.

  26. Mike Szczys says:

    @Wwhat: I don’t know… can’t you think of a few other uses for the touch screen as well?

  27. therian says:

    If they dont have a kill switch then they dont deserve to live

  28. PocketBrain says:

    Props for including soundtrack by Yello.

  29. This is sointeresting…But..Why can people just drive their cars the old fashioned way?

  30. aw says:

    Mythbusters would have wired the remote to hit the break when its out of range.

    I don’t see why they cant put in a few range finders to determine distances and so in the event all control is lost, it can be automated and it won’t hit the break in the middle of the freeway.

    Maybe its already there and in reality I was just too lazy to read the article/watch the video.

  31. jimmynorth says:

    i do not like iphones. do not know why. it is uncomfortable for me to use them. though they are many-functional of course.

  32. dnm says:

    The world will be a better place when people stop chucking an ‘i’ in front of a noun and thinking it’s a clever program name.

  33. zjd says:

    so what about a button to honk the horn?
    What if someone hacks whatever wifi signal they are sending?

  34. walt says:

    why does everyone always add mechanics to control the steering wheel and pedals? hasn’t anyone hacked the car computer itself yet?

  35. Paul says:

    @Walt, most cars aren’t drive by wire, the computer has nothing to do with steering, or the pedals. Though if you had a drive by wire car then yes it could be done.

  36. Phil Fitzgerald says:

    Looks good, but I’ll really be impressed if they implement this on a manual car ;)

  37. Mohammed says:

    I know other project can be controlling of the car via XBOX

  38. Mohammed says:

    part 2 :

    part 3 :

    part 4 :

    part 5 :

  39. iPhone never cease to amaze, I just wonder when can there be a money making App or an App giving out winning numbers for Lottery hahaha LOL.

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