Remotely Control Your Crappy Car (dangerously)

Here’s one that brings back that giddy feeling we got when the original episodes of thebroken were posted all those years ago. The lunatics over at Waterloo Labs have altered a beat-up Oldsmobile for remote control via laptop, iPhone, and…. wait for it… Power Wheels.

Brake and gas pedals are actuated using a wrench connected to a motor bolted to the floorboards of the car. The steering wheel has been replaced with a gear and connected to a motor using a motorcycle chain. Much like the van we saw last month, an iPhone app has been written to wirelessly control the car of doom. This leads to some car surfing and ghost riding the whip in the video after the break.

To our delight, they’ve also implement the most unorthodox automotive interface yet, Power Wheels. A chain has been added to measure the orientation of the toy steering wheel, and an optical encoder is used to measure the speed of the tiny electric vehicle. It looks like it doesn’t do the best job of translating to a full size vehicle, but it maxes out their style points.


Related: thebroken

41 thoughts on “Remotely Control Your Crappy Car (dangerously)

  1. a full-sized RC car is one project that’s been on my list for a long time.

    though ideally I’d want to do it such that it looks un-hacked from the outside and can still be driven normally.

    throttle can likely be handled by tapping into the cruise control actuator, a secondary electronically controlled master cylinder can handle the braking. As for steering the best I could come up with is to simply hide a gear driven motor in the dash attached to the column, but I’m not so sure… depending on the car you might be able to fit such an apparatus in the engine-bay even.

    that just leaves the transmission, they have fully electronically controlled automatics, but no cheap car has those… the best bet might be to find one with an external shift linkage and simply throw an actuator under the car to get it working.

  2. @twistedsymphony

    My ’97 intrepid(which could be had for well under a grand) has and electronically controlled tranny. Chrysler calls it autostick, you can choose the gears like in a manual. The stick position doesn’t mechanically connect to the tranny, there is a switch somewhere. All you would need to do it tap into it. And of course need some way to shift out of park into drive…since it wont start in drive. A servo maybe.

  3. To those wondering how to shift, steer, brake, etc:

    AEVIT is a solution used by many DARPA teams. AEVIT by EMC is one of those ‘adaptave mobility control’ devices for disabled and wheelchair bound to drive. In essence there’s a computer screen with the main controls (start, park, drive, etc) and a control ‘panel’ in your lap or mounted in the vehicle for gas/brake and steering.

    DARPA teams just tap into the AEVIT/EMC system for their control. And the nice thing is it’s fairly unobtrusive. There’s a giant black unit under the steering wheel to ‘set’ the system and align the wheel with the servos and such, and then down by the pedals is another box with the actuators for brake and gas. A regular person can also use the system – just don’t “enable” it when the car’s turned on and it won’t work.

  4. It looks like they just re-purposed the parts from this year’s First competition robot after they were done with it…. Seriously, almost everything that they used was in the kit of parts for FIRST this year.

  5. While it would be a stupid stint, but it’s fun imagining pulling it off. Put a big dog in the driver’s seat, while you are in back doing the driving. With my “powers wheels” the power was me pedaling as fast as I could. Dead man’s switches would be a good idea, as would be a big rig like “maxi brake” concoction that would apply the brakes, while cutting the ignition as a deadman’s switch is tripped. Several years ago my dad was putting togeter an oil well servicing rig. The truck’s throttle had to be controlled from 3 differant locations outide the cab throttle. In the old days they use air to to operate a ccyliner under the hood. The throttle by wire on the new computer controlled diesels posed a kink to work out. I suggested a thoratl position sensor at each location, using a switch to select the one needed. Bt those sensors where expensive, and the ended up using an air cylinder under the dash to operate the thottle in the cab. Thinking about it, there is a lot of stuff used in the oil patch that could be useful in robotic control. I think the pot segment in the video was about getting someone’s attractive gal on tape. Mike *I* approve of this post.

  6. When I read “Power Wheels” I thought.

    Oh, that must be some technical word for something really cool, surely not some little kid’s toy…

    But when I saw the Power Wheels logo on the Wikipedia page I knew I was wrong…

  7. @Jduffy you’re exactly right, we did use a lot of the FIRST kit.

    We didn’t exactly have a DARPA budget. We did the project for ~$1000 including purchasing the car and paying for a trailer on which to tow the truck to the testing site.

  8. I can’t wait to hear about these on (place anagram of your favorite news station here) when they’re used to driving in living breathing targets…

    I’m sure you’ve heard it before… but here it is… It’s always fun until someone gets hurt… Stupidity can be, and often is, painful–just ask the winners of the Darwin Awards.

  9. @John Boiles – I presume you’re not including the compact rio and software in that budget (as that’d add a zero to your costings last time I checked the price of a CRio and a few modules!)

  10. @James – Correct, most of the guys (except for me) work for National Instruments so we had access to the cRIO, LabView, FIRST robotics kits for free. However, the cRIO isn’t doing anything too fancy. Someone with some microcontroller/electronics experience could replace the cRIO for <$100.

  11. ive seen many people do it like that and i really dont understand why you would interface with the trottle pedal? it would reqire loads more power and more sofisticated equipment than just a servo attached to the carburettor….
    oh well ..

  12. Great, how long will it be until we see our first remote car bomb?

    Dummy in the front seat, ton of explosives in the back. I bet the military is testing dozens of ways to detect and jam these rigs.

  13. @John – Of course it could, I was just pointing out that that would take some time and effort and control with the Rio is a bit of a short-cut using industrial control hardware – still a fun project I’d love to do, but maybe I’m being a bit purist by suggesting it would be more “worthy” somehow if it were done from the ground up rather than bolt-in solutions.

    @bullzebub – yup, would be much much simpler to make up a bracket for the throttle butterfly, though its hot, vibrating and unpleasant under the bonnet for non-auto grade components, I think thats the only reason I can see for not controlling at the throttle.

  14. “Great, how long will it be until we see our first remote car bomb?

    Dummy in the front seat, ton of explosives in the back. I bet the military is testing dozens of ways to detect and jam these rigs.”

    Posted at 7:14 pm on Nov 12th, 2009 by Lee

    ^ Why would the bombers go to the trouble? People are cheaper…

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.