Line Following Model Car

This is something I have wanted to do for some while for fun. Note that it has nothing to do with my work at Manna, so don’t make any assumptions about the technologies being used! I also don’t get much spare time, so updates are likely to be irregular.

This is experimenting for fun, so may go in a number of different directions. However, I do want to see how close I can get to a car that accurately stays over a line, steered using Ackerman steering rather than a differential drive. This sounds simple but most examples I see seem to be too ‘approximate’, too slow or not very smooth.

Software / Hardware Approach
I’ll predominantly be using Python and open source libraries such as OpenCV and ROS. Probably ROS2, in fact. Where we need speed, we’ll use C++.

The usual suspects will be present, such a Raspberry Pi and Jetson. I’m also interested in the OpenMV unit, stereo and depth vision, RFID, mesh networking and others as things progress. For example, maybe having two cars maintaining distancing on the same circuit.

Chassis Selection
There are a vast number of notable car projects based on different chassis. and with different levels of aspiration from simple line following through to full autonomy. Many examples of the great Donkey Car project are based on the Exceed 1/16 scale truck. At the other end of the spectrum is the MIT RaceCar project and derivations of that such as Racecar/j. This also has some great support material available from others, such as Jim at JetsonHacks.

I want something a little larger than 1/16th, so have picked a 1/110 scale car from Hobbyking. The Quanum Vandal 1/10 buggy is particularly affordable and comes as a kit or assembled with ESC and motor. I picked the latter for simplicity. With a 2S battery pack, it should hopefully not be too fast for my purposes.

From the images on the website, it looks as though it should be simple to build on a couple of platforms for components – there are some unused holes in the baseplate. I’ll probably also want to set up odometry of some sort, and there look to be some options for that, too, maybe from the driveshaft, wheels or electronically.

In the next post, I’ll go over prepping the kit before making the first modifications.

Author: Mike Isted

Head of Avionics and Aircraft Software, Manna Drone Delivery.

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