Make Your RC Car Drive Itself With This Simple Brain Swap


If the kids have lost interest in that RC car or truck you bought them over the holidays, [Randy Sarafan] from Instructables has a few ideas that might help make the toys fun again, while teaching your kids a bit about electronics in the process. In his writeup, he shows how to swap out the brains of your run of the mill RC truck, enabling it to do far more than was originally intended. The procedure is pretty simple, and something that you can easily involve your kids in, if you’d like.

He uses an Arduino and a motor shield to keep the conversion simple, but this can be done with just about any capable microcontroller you might have on hand. [Randy] added a Parallax Ping sensor to the front of the truck enabling it to avoid objects as it drives itself, but since he cut out the truck’s original control board we’re assuming that there’s no way to override the truck’s actions at present.

[Randy] calls the conversion a “robot” though it seems like more of a semi-autonomous rover if you ask us. Regardless, revamping an old RC car is certainly far better than letting it collect dust on a shelf, or worse, tossing it out during spring cleaning.

Continue reading to see a short video of [Randy’s] RC truck in action.

[via HackedGadgets]


13 thoughts on “Make Your RC Car Drive Itself With This Simple Brain Swap

  1. Just looking at the pic makes me want to build a scale model PING that’s four feet long and mount it to the front of my BMW, then drive around town pulling up to walls, stopping, then backing up. lol

    Hacked toys are awesome and fun to build. Nice work.

  2. Why is this any less a robot than say, a battle bot which is nothing more than an R/C car with “accessories”? You have 2 axis control and at least 1 sensor. I have seen less than this labeled as a robot.

  3. Nice, I have a car here with broken remote.
    Stupid roof leaked and watered the R/C unit..

    Would be an amusing hack to mount an R101 on there with hacked firmware, and some Raspberry-Pi to control the wheels etc.
    Plus if the wifi drops out it can “phone home” with 3G/Edge to let you know its location and battery state etc.

    1. >and some Raspberry-Pi

      ? are you one of the 10 suckers that paid 1000 dollars for a numbered beta board? because to date those 10 are the ONLY Raspberry-Pi that shipped

      There is no point in even considering vaporware.

    2. could the battery be charged by solar energy while its moving and theoretically can it be used on anything eg: motorbike, car, rc helicoptor or 1 or multiple quadrotors?

      please can someone reply

  4. Now that SWMBette (daughter of She Who Must Be Obeyed) has her own RC car, I can get back to hacking my 4wd RC truck. Last year I bungee strapped a video recorder to it and made a motion sickness inducing video.

  5. Most cheap radio controlled cars have a motor driver chip on them somewhere. The two or three I’ve seen use the same chip. The inputs to the chip are TTL level and can be driven directly from the output of the micro you want to control them with thus rendering the motor control shield unnecessary. Great start for a robot platform though.

  6. @rasz Now now, just because they had one little production SNAFU..

    i’d have Epoxied over the LAN port and sent them out anyway, they are perfectly useable without it.
    Plus its easily reversed if needed when the new boards are available.

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