How to Drive the RC Car
READ THIS FIRST
Please note, the RC car described in this document no longer exists. This document remains only for historical purposes. There have been 4 different controllable vehicles over the years. The first two were converted RC Cars, the third was a converted RC tank, and the latest incarnation is a robotic critter which I have built from scratch. None of these currently work, and a new model is currently under production.
The primary reason the car is broken so often is because people, intentionally or otherwise, abuse it. For this reason, I will immediately and without warning ban anyone abusing the car. I don't care if it was purely accidental or not. If you don't know how to drive it, DON'T.
Abuse of the car includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Intentionally driving into walls or other objects. Press each button ONCE and ONLY once. Wait until the picture updates before pressing another button. There is no sense in smashing into the wall 10 times before you finally get your picture updated. Be patient. If you try to move forwards or backwards and you don't see any movement, that probably means you're running into something. Try moving in the opposite direction so you can see what's going on.
Driving under objects with low clearance. This includes tables, under chairs, sofas, desks, or other furniture that has less than 3 feet of height clearance. The car can get stuck and/or lose its signal. This includes trying to drive under my desk to get to my (or someone else's) feet. Keep it out in the open.
Driving between objects where the car might get stuck. If it looks like a tight fit, STAY OUT OF IT.
Flipping the car over. The ledge from the foyer to the living room has a 5 inch drop and the car will most likely flip over if you drive over it. This causes a LOT of stress on the car and the electronics. Don't do it. I've since rearranged some furniture to make driving the car over a ledge practically impossible, so this is no longer really a concern.
You ARE allowed to chase the cat. The cat is faster than the car, has the capability to escape if she wishes, and the car moves too slowly to do any damage to her. In fact she enjoys playing with it quite a bit, so no worries.
To drive the car, go here and click on the RC Car cam link.
The radio controlled car, for now on known as the "RC car", is a Samson radio shack purchased RC car with some modifications. Since nothing over the web can be perfectly realtime, I have designed an interface which will allow you the best opportunities for control and feedback, without creating too much risk for the car or my sanity.
The control panel looks like this:
If you don't see this control panel, then you're not on the right page. On the main page, click the "RC Car" button to get the control panel and the car's webcam image. If you only see static or no image at all then the RC car is currently offline, or broken. No sense asking about when it will be back online.
The first thing you must realize is that the car is normally at rest. Any button that moves the car only moves it a short distance, then the car will stop again. This gives you a chance to let the picture refresh so you can plan your next move.
These three buttons control the steering. None of these buttons will actually move the car, they just control which way the wheels are pointing. The left and right arrows will turn the wheels left or right respectively and the center button will center the wheels so they're pointing forward again. When you press buttons that move the car, the car will move in the direction the wheels are pointing.
These buttons make the car move forward. The button on top will make the car move a further distance than the button on the bottom. The reason there are two buttons is because there are two surfaces in my house that the car might travel on: carpet and linolium. The car can achieve a much greater speed on the linolium surface, and therefore you might need a slower "step" in order to manuver. However, on the carpet, the slower button will barely move the car at all, which is ok if you're trying to do some precision moving. Remember, if the wheels are turned, the car will turn forward in the direction the wheels are turned. Try centering the wheels if the car isn't moving in the direction you think it should.
These buttons move the car backwards. The bottom button will move the car faster than the one on top. They act the same way as the forward buttons do, and will react accordingly if the wheels are turned.
These arrows will turn and move the car in the direction that the arrows point. The wheels will remain in the direction they were originally pointing before the button was pressed.
In the default mode, if two people both try to play with the car at the same time, all the commands will be acknowledged in the order they were received, but both drivers will feel like they're driving drunk. If you want to get exclusive control over the car, click on the Lock link. This will let you have sole control over the car for the next 5 minutes and everyone else who tries to drive will be put into a queue. When your time is up, the next person gets 5 minutes to drive, and so on until nobody is left in the queue, at which point it reverts back to the default mode. While it's your turn, if you don't do anything for 60 seconds, you will automatically lose control of the car and control will be granted to the next person in line.
When you're placed into the queue, a small window will pop up telling you how much time you have to wait before it's your turn. This is the maximum amount of time you would have to wait, and it will probably be much less. The window will refresh every 10 seconds with an updated time. If you have to close the window or your browser crashes, you can reconnect to the site and either click on Lock or any of the driving buttons and you will get your place back in line. However, if your turn comes up while you're disconnected, you'll lose your turn. Also, if your ip address changes, you will lose your place in line, as the IP address is the way the server keeps track of the locks and wait queues. The downside of this is that if your ISP uses a web cache that changes ip addresses for every web access, like AOL, then the car locking won't work, although you'll still be able to drive it in default mode. I recommend switching ISPs.
TipsAs the warning stated, be sure to take it casual when you're driving. Hit a button once and wait until the picture updates so you see where you are. Many people on their first try just keep clicking buttons until something happens, and by that time 6-7 events have been queued and they're constantly confused at why the car is going all over the place. Once you're more comfortable at driving it, you might be able to combine a few commands at once but give it some time to get used to first.
Despite my efforts, there are still a few isolated areas of the house that can't receive a signal from the transmitter, and therefore the car will get stuck there until I can pysically move it. The only one that's consistant is the laundry room. The fridge gets in the way. Try to avoid these areas.
If you get stuck somewhere and can't seem to move around at all, remember to try backing up, and moving forwards and backwards with the wheels turned. Its almost impossible to get INTO a position that you can't get back OUT of by simply backtracking.
Anyways, if you're still having difficulty, remember, practice makes perfect, or at the very least, somewhat good. :) The car isn't quite as popular as I once thought it would be, so I haven't gone to the trouble of implementing any lockout controls on it yet. This means its possible that more than one person may try to drive the car at the same time. This might be confusing at first since the car won't seem to be cooperating properly for either of the drivers. Imagine a car with two steering wheels and two drivers both wanting to go to two different places. Ick. :)
If you want more information on how I accomplished this, or you want to do it yourself, please visit my Howto page.