Russian motorists from Tula Oblast have modified an old Opel Vectra into a remotely controlled automobile.
The unmanned vehicle, which has recently passed first tests, is humorously dubbed by its creators “James Bond car”…
Here is what the participant of this project writes in his blog.
That’s the first big report about our trials…
Long time ago (last summer) we consumed an idea of doing races via internet .. with real cars!
We already tried it with small models, but now we wanted the 1:1 size.
For this purpose we have bought an old Opel Vectra of 1990 release, 2.0 liters, automatic transmission. With the mileage of 300 thousand kilometers it was almost dead and rotten inside. But most importantly – it was still moving.
Our project was given the code name “James Bond’s car” in analogy with the fancy car from “Tomorrow Never Dies”. After the first test Romik suggested a new name – Opel Virta, which we currently use.
The main point is very simple – a real car remotely driven by a person. We decided to use a tablet and an old iPad3 came in very handy. If the tests are successful nothing will prevent us from adding controls to operate them through a browser. But we’ll get to it later.
So, Opel was taken to the glorious city of Shchyokino to the garage of Uncle Vasya, since prior to adding electronics we had to take care of the mechanics: control of acceleration, steering, brakes, gear, etc.
Not everything went smoothly during the first trial – all systems except the acceleration control collapsed. The results can be seen in one of our videos [ed: you can see all videos in the project's YouTube channel]. Therefore, Uncle Vasya had to sit behind the wheel, after which I had “successfully” bumped the car into a snow pile. We had some hard time coordinating our efforts, when I was accelerating and Uncle Vasya was steering and braking. But it was fun!
We made some conclusions after the initial tests… We added a more powerful motor to our steering wheel and better actuator to the brakes. We did not have any problems with the acceleration system, just made a more reliable traction. At the same time, we added a gear shift, since manually switching the gears was really inconvenient.
There are many such projects of the remotely operated vehicles, but usually people connect to the steering rack and the brakes directly. We, however, chose a closer to reality approach, in which one needs to turn the wheel and press the pedal for real (without connecting to the “electronic brain”) and thus provide a universal solution. Now the whole system can be transferred to any automobile as long as it has an automatic transmission (and the automatic transmission selector is direct – not zigzag).
Control through internet will be added a little bit later, when it becomes warmer, since the weather turned out to be the main problem. While doing tests outside, I froze like a dog. Besides, the tablet screen quickly becomes wet and fingers numb and lose sensitivity, making tapping on the screen more difficult. Also, in the street it’s difficult to see clearly the picture from the rear view mirror – the screen brightness is not sufficient. Plus the windshield is quickly covered with snow.
So far we have done two field tests. The first one went quite bad, the second was better, but lacked the real action. Though we got permission of the Tula driving school to use their track, early during the second test our cooling system pipe blasted and we had to stop. Hopefully, until the spring Uncle Vasya will repair the pipe, and when it gets warmer we will drive our Opel to an open area and arrange some hellish action.
Of course, there are still many improvements to come till then…