Building an Autonomous Vehicle: The Batmobile

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Contributors: Nate
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Control Electronics - Lasers

Batmobile with top off

Laser tape measures seen on the front of the car, wrapped in foil

We hacked three laser tape measures in order to get distance to any objection front, left or right of the car. Laser tape measures are getting cheaper, and while the read rate (3Hz at the best of times) is not great for LIDAR, it's fast enough for basic, low-cost autonomy.

Lasers wired to controller

Laser Controller at front of car

Unfortunately, the laser tape measures threw off enough RF to interfere with our GPS module, so we wrapped the lasers in foil. These sensors deserve their own tutorial, which will be written soon.

PCB with connectors

Laser Controller with labels

Again we chose the SAMD21 Mini to help us control and combine the serial information coming from the three sensors. The Laser Controller would send the pertinent control strings to the tape measures and monitor the responses, combining them into distances for left/right/center. The Brain would request these values from the Laser Controller over I2C.

Note the prodigious amounts of labels and polarized connectors (JSTs work great!). This system required lots of debugging but worked well because we were able to quickly disconnect and reconnect various aspects of the system.

The code for the Laser Controller can be found here.