Panning GoPro Mount Catches Bad Drivers On Video


[Chris] must live in a neighborhood with a lot of bad drivers. He built this motorized panning GoPro mount so he can record and share his neighbors’ mobile misadventures with the world. He started with a custom machined aluminum frame. The frame clips onto a suction cup mount grab bar. The stock GoPro mount sits on a machined HDPE puck, which is rotated by a NEMA 11 stepper motor. [Chris] used a Pololu A4988 stepper motor driver to handle the coils. Initially he used an Arduino to generate pulses for the stepper driver. A true Hackaday fan though, he decided that an Arduino was overkill, and broke out a 555 timer. A DPDT switch powers up the 555 and controls the stepper driver’s direction input. The electronics all fit neatly in a small project box which doubles as a hand controller.

While setting up for a test drive [Chris] found that he could only lock down one suction cup on his car’s curved sunroof. Considering the light weight of the GoPro, one suction cup is probably enough. Just to be safe, [Chris] added a rope leash down through the sunroof.

We think the stepper motor was a good choice for this project. Since the motor is direct drive, there are no gears to strip. The stepper’s holding torque also keeps the camera pointed in the right direction at highway speeds. With no wires directly connecting the GoPro to the car, [Chris] can spin the camera 360 degrees without worrying about tangles. Verifying the camera’s direction is just a matter of looking up through the car’s sunroof. Click past the break to see [Chris’s] camera mount in action. 

23 thoughts on “Panning GoPro Mount Catches Bad Drivers On Video

    1. Ah okay, so I re-watched the video and it’s clearly been sped up (watch the body movements of the jogger).

      I’m still not sure about the stated reason.

      But I do like the ‘remote rotate’ functionality that he’s built for the gopro.

      1. Good catch! the video is about 2x.
        The real reason for the swivel mount is for scenic drives. I’m an outdoorsy guy and being able to catch my next drive thru Yosemite or Zion seems useful.

      2. It’s a good setup for some life reporting, especially since the gopro has wifi so you can tether it to a phone for some relatively cheap crisis reporting.
        Get driving to ukraine, or harlem.

      1. Yup. The thing that always gets me nervous when I’m a passenger in a car is when the driver turns to me and says “Did you see what that idiot just did” because 9 times out of ten they veer off line, wobble or swerve and nearly crash themselves.

        1. Well – that’s a poor driver right there. I’ve been witness to loads of bad vehicle behavior while I’m driving. I might say something but taking my eyes off the road isn’t done. Friend of mine calls me, and I swear this is true ‘A very confident driver.’

          1. Quite, if you can’t turn to a passenger with a single line without getting off the road perhaps you should not have a drivers license.
            Also if you are so damn nervous as passenger perhaps you should travel blindfolded and sedated?

    1. @fartface:
      I actually did try using the remote viewfinder GoPro app, but with a 3sec lag, its not super useful. Better to not add that distraction while driving. Ideally, a copilot would be the one taking care of the camera, while I would take care of keeping us alive.

  1. Is he seriously attaching a camera to the exterior his car ? I guess the idea is that 1 camera on a motorized mount is cheaper than 2 cameras (really?)

    But there are a few good reasons why every car camera system is discretely placed inside the car. Aerodynamics and invitation to theft. Or is he supposed to detach the camera everytime he parks his car or enters the highway ?

  2. I don’t know why somebody would do this, but I think that a small geared dc-motor would have been a better choice, it’s cheaper, requires no electronics and consumes no power when not moving. And unlike HAD i don’t think the gears are likely to strip, the majority of the geared motors you can buy from ebay have a very solid metal gear, I know this from my own experience.

  3. No sure of the value of having 360 degree pan. In russia, they just have a front and back facing camera, and that seems to work well. At speed, pointing a camera 90 degrees from the direction of travel means you get pretty much nothing but a blur. If you want to do tracking/zooming/etc you need a camera man, not a distracted driver worried more about the camera’s pov instead of the road.

  4. I admire the ingenuity and execution in this. That said, it reflects the HaD obsession with making things an order of magnitude more complicated than they need to be. Buy or make a 360-degree lens, mount the camera to the car, and you’re done. It’ll get everything without having to muck about with remote controls.

  5. This is about as innovative as polishing a ball. It gets smoother, but it would have rolled anyways. Cheap solutions called dash cams have been around for ages. Why does someone have to go this far to make themselves look like the Google mobile?

  6. Anyone else glad to see someone on HAD actually cut out the Arduino in favor of doing something correctly and learning.
    +1 for an interesting idea, now figure out how to interface it with driving analysis for auto driving correction and sell it to Google.

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