A group of DIY Makers based in Seattle say they plan on building a fleet of 1,000 autonomous vehicles – all equipped with Atmel-powered Arduino boards. Project Elcano, which kicked off in 2007, is the brainchild of electrical engineer Tyler Folsom.
According to Popular Science, Folsom’s resume includes work on everything from NASA spacecraft to driverless vehicles for DARPA challenges. The talented Maker recently appeared in a crowd-funding video, as he is hoping to raise enough cash to design a circuit board that can help anybody make any car robotic.
“Elcano’s first prototype is a recumbent tricycle outfitted with five Arduino control boards, a motor, actuators, and a battery,” PopSci writer Dave Mosher explains. “A driver controls the trike with a joystick, or using a semi-autonomous mode, and all of its systems are computer-controlled, i.e. no cables, levers, or other mechanical controls.”
The next step, says Mosher, is for Folsom’s team to help the tricycle drive itself by securing a $3,500 goal to print four custom-designed circuit boards and consolidate a mass of wiring and components on current-gen prototypes. This would allow team members to more easily swap out hardware and rapidly test new electronic steering, path planning, obstacle avoidance, navigation and other on-board systems.
Ultimately, the team hopes that crowdfunding will facilitate the design of a fully autonomous, road-ready electric vehicle system (EV), enabling 1,000 mpg-equivalent efficiency.
“Autonomy has implications not just for safety, but for fuel efficiency. This can cut energy [use] by a factor of 10,” Folsom added.