Seems like all the buzz about autonomous vehicles these days centers around self-driving cars. Hands-free transportation certainly has its appeal – being able to whistle up a ride with a smartphone app and converting commute time to Netflix binge time is an alluring idea. But is autonomous personal transportation really the killer app that everyone seems to think it is? Wouldn’t we get more bang for the buck by automating something a little more mundane and a lot more important? What about automating the shipping of freight?
Look around the next time you’re not being driven to work by a robot and you’re sure to notice a heck of a lot of trucks on the road. From small panel trucks making local deliveries to long-haul tractor trailers working cross-country routes, the roads are lousy with trucks. And behind the wheel of each truck is a human driver (or two, in the case of team-driven long-haul rigs). The drivers are the weak point in this system, and the big reason I think self-driving trucks will be commonplace long before we see massive market penetration of self-driving cars.
[Daniel Norée] started the OpenR/C project back in 2012 when he bought a Thing-O-Matic. In search of a project to test out his new printer, he set his sights on a remote controlled car, which as he put it,”… seemed like the perfect candidate, as it presents a lot of challenges with somewhat intricate moving parts along with the need for a certain level of precision and durability.”
After releasing his second design, the OpenR/C Truggy, he realized a community was forming around this idea, and needed a place to communicate. So, he created a Google+ group. Today, the Truggy has been downloaded over 100,000 times and the Google group has over 5,000 members. It’s a very active community of RC and 3d printing enthusiasts who are testing the limits of what a 3d printer can do.
This project was inspired by [Silas Parker] and his Arduino-based dashboard made out of a cardboard box, some servos, and a few LEDs. It worked, but [Leon] realized just about every dashboard made in the last decade or so has a CAN bus. You can just buy a CAN bus shield for an Arduino, and a dashboard can be easily found at any junkyard.
This pickup truck to flatbed conversion is very impressive. [Caswell_Etheredge] says he was channeling his inner redneck. That must mean rednecks in his area are craftsmen of the highest caliber.
He wanted a bit more flexibility on the size and shape of the cargo he was able to haul. Just six lag bolts held the original stamped steel bed on the truck. A bit of work with a pipe and a breaker bar did the trick. A mess of packed on mud and grime was there to greet him. After chipping, vacuuming, and power washing the underbody he gave it a fresh paint job using an undercoating product.
From there the wood flatbed build starts, and he’s not messing around with scrap wood. What you can see of the bed is fashioned from cedar and ipe. The underpinnings which fasten to the frame with those same six lag bolts are pressure treated 2×4 boards. The 4×6 bumper includes the license plate and lights for it. Brake and turn signals are built into the bed along with cleats for easy fastening of a tarp or to secure the cargo.
This rear-window LED marquee will help let the driver behind you know when you’re planing to change lanes or make a turn. But it also includes the ability to send a message like “Back Off!”. [Robert Dunn] was inspired to undertake the project after seeing the one we featured back in October. We’d say his has a better chance of being street legal since it uses all red LEDs.
The marquee is a matrix of 480 LEDs, all hand soldered to form the nearly transparent 48×10 grid shown above. This is important to preserve visibility out the back window of his truck. It makes us wonder about the feasibility of using SMD instead of through hole components. That would certainly make it even less visible when not illuminated, but the assembly process would be much more difficult. That’s because the 5mm LED packages fit nicely in the grid of holes he drilled in some plywood which served as the jig during soldering. The presence of leads also made the soldering process manageable.
Power to an Arduino board is provided from the cigarette lighter adapter. A set of six shift registers drive the columns while the rows are controlled by a 4017 decade counter and some transistors. Check out the blinker test video after the break to get a look at what this can do while on the road.
The work which [Mark] did to mount this iPad mini in the dashboard of his Ford truck is commendable. It looks like it came from the factory this way, and the functionality matches that illusion.
He actually started the project before he had the iPad mini on hand. A PDF that mapped out the exact dimensions was used as a template for the layout and alteration. He took the stereo controls out of the original faceplate. That opening was made to fit the screen by cutting, adding putty, then sanding and finishing.
Since the bezel won’t let [Mark] get at any of the buttons on the iPad itself he picked up an external home button on eBay and mounted it just to the left of the screen. Inside the dashboard a docking connector is responsible for powering the tablet and connecting it to the sound system. There’s even a WiFi connection thanks to the MiFi system he mounted in the overhead console.
This truck is not simply a drive train and a radio module. Great care was taken to fabricate every part to work like a full-sized vehicle. NSFW WARNING: The forum on which the details have been posted is Russian and may have sidebar ads you don’t want on your screen at work. That being said, here’s the link (translated).
The build starts with a custom-made frame which looks like it’s aluminum. The gearbox is assembled from a huge number of parts, with power is transferred to the wheels through a proper differential. But hey, why not go that extra mile? The rope and hook hanging off the front are connected to a functional winch. The doors have windows that crank down, the steering wheel moves when the wheels turn, and where would this thing be without windshield wipers and headlights? Don’t miss the pair of demo videos after the break.