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Vendor
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all.
It looks like we've beaten Google to the market


We'll be releasing tomorrow the ALPHA version of Slot.it autonomous vehicle firmware for any O2 chipped car. It's still Alpha, so anything can happen, but the car can run on any track, and as far as we can tell any digital system.

It's a really simple concept. Press two buttons and the chip starts recording controller's data. Drive one lap. If you're happy, save the data, else reset and repeat. Disconnect the controller, place the car on the track, and see what happens.

You need a oXigen chipped car, one SCP2 with oXigen controller, and the dongle to upload the new firmware to the car. The only other thing that's needed is the oXigen magnet signalling where the finish line is - then you can have the autonomous car run wherever you want - analog or digital track.

When it runs in autonomous mode, the car doesn't need (actually, it must NOT be connected to) an oXigen controller, so you can have pretty much as many cars as lanes, with no controllers.

It works and it's simple, surprisingly good on our test track, fun to see and use, and you may test it during the Christmas holidays.

Look mom - no magnet:

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/wDtqCsBTSg8?rel=0
 

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ParrotGod
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Hi Maurizio
is the car synchronizing the recorded data after a pass over the s/f line? If this is the case, I do not see how with the motor/chip getting hotter you can prevent the car getting out of synch: this will cause the car to brake/accelerate too late or early and hence deslot. To avoid this you need to have more synch points along the track. In this respect, Scorpius ghost cars are more advanced as they can use the sensors in the lane changers to signal their position on the track to the software controlling them.

In the oxigen chip case, it seems that the data is contained in the chip. In other words, it is not the RMS replaying the recorded data but the chip itself. Is this correct? In this case, you need a way for the chip to be aware where it is on the track to be able to better synch the lap data. Also would be nice if the autonomous cars will be part of the race with the RMS counting laps and times.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Grunz, it's a simple system that's not supposed to beat you at your own game. It aims to be a simple sparring partner which does what it's supposed to do without much trouble. It doesn't need anything but one magnet on the track and will work on an analog track as well as all digital systems we can think of - NO lane changers, NO sensors on the track, NO RMS. ... In-car chip apart, it only needs the controller during recording and the dongle to burn the appropriate firmware in the car chip (no controller firmware change is necessary). FREE if you have a basic oXigen setup. It's in Alpha because we've only been able to test it in our lab but we wanted to give something to our customers to play with. If it doesn't work, and proves to be a bad idea, it will go away and die. Let some people try it before deeming it broken.

This said, it supports (this release) up to approx 7" lap time but up to 14 should be possible in future. Certainly, longer laps may create greater synch issues, but as long as you brake early, and accelerate late and not too abruptly, it should work. At least we've tested it successfully on our track, running reliably for hundreds of 5" laps (my best lap with that car would probably be 4.2/4.3). What's most important is to avoid wheelspin, and drifting, both being completely unpredictable.
Motor heating didn't cause any issues, wheel spin and drifting did, so you can't push too hard and can't expect to brake at the very last moment. If you look at the footage, the car runs very 'cleanly'. That's what you must aim for when recording the lap. Should there be a need for more synch points, adding magnets would be easy, but this is not what this is designed for.

It's an ALPHA release so don't test it with your most expensive collectable model.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
QUOTE (LMP @ 17 Dec 2015, 18:59) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Can the car (be programmed to) change lanes? I understand it would need to start and finish the lap on the same lane.

Gary, the car may be programmed (in the future - not now) to change lanes. However, running on different lanes may introduce differences in lap time that the firmware, which is 'dumb' and only synchs over the finish line, may not cope well with. If you apply a consistent gentle driving, then I think it may work.
 

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Greg Gaub
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While it may not be the "dream" automated car that lots of us want, it is at least another tool in the box of tricks for slot.it oXigen.

I look forward to giving this a go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
We've tried to make the car change lanes - applying some driving precautions I.e. leaving enough margin to accommodate for the differences in lane length and inner/outer radius, as well as conservative driving, it works. However, if forced to always change lane, it may also inadvertently enter pit lane.

Just one small software cleanup and we'll release it - today.
 

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Gary Skipp
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Interesting!

My question was more aimed at changing twice per lap, for example. Once away from the 'running lane' and once back again before the finish line. From what you've posted it sounds like you can make it change randomly, or always?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
For now, we've just tested either no change or always change lane. In principle anything could be done, but for the time being we'll limit ourselves to 'no change' for the first Alpha release.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Firmware is ready and can be downloaded at this link:

Autonomous car Alpha 1 release

Instructions
0. READ THE CAVEATS AT THE END OF THIS POST
1. Download the firmware and update your oXigen in-car chip via oXigen Bootloader.
2. Link the car to an oXigen controller. ID number does not matter. Lift the car and put it back on the track.
3. Notice the rapid flickering of the in-car LED, indicating a valid controller link.
4. Press and keep pressed for 5" the UP and DOWN arrows at the same time. LED flickering slightly slows down then becomes slower, indicating 'recording mode' has started. Don't lift the car or you'll have to go back to step 3.
5. Drive the car around the circuit. When the car detects the finish line, recording starts. Complete one lap, and the car stops.
6. If you are happy with the lap you did, without removing the car from the track, press and keep pressed for 5" the UP and DOWN arrows at the same time, again. LED goes off. This indicates successfull transfer of the recorded data into permanent memory. If you're NOT happy, reset the car (remove from track and put it back), then go to point 4.
7. Switch off the controller and place the car on the track, roughly 30 to 50cm (0.75 - 1.5 feet) before the finish line. After a second or so, the car will start moving.
8. The car ramps its speed up to the speed it knows it must have on the finish line (first recorded value). Syncing takes place once the car detects the finish line magnet, after which lap playback begins. Note that as a safety measure, to avoid runaway cars, if the car doesn't detect a magnet within 0.5" after it starts moving, it will stop.
9. To stop the car, remove it from the track or switch controller on.

CAVEATS
1. This is an Alpha release and the car moves around by itself. Hence, as there may be bugs in the code, the car may deslot at full speed with possible damage to the car or whatever it happens to hit. We've put in safety measures to avoid runaways but you never know.
2. As you may have noticed, the autonomous movement is only enabled when the car is not linked to a controller. No dongle required either (other than for programming). For those who know oXigen's inside outs, a car which is not linked to a controller can be given a new ID, or sent in bootloading mode. This means that an autonomously running car may be inadvertently be linked to another controller, or sent into bootloading mode while running. To avoid this, a new ID can only be given, or bootloading can only be enabled, if the car is reset with a magnet under the Hall sensor - I.e. like when it's resting on the finish line - as described in the 'Relinking Controller and Car' paragraph on page 14 of the oXigen base manual. If you want to revert the firmware back to a 'normal' version, you must also have the magnet under the Hall sensor at boot, to initiate the procedure.

TRICKS and TIPS
1. Drive conservatively, avoid wheelspin, and drifting, both being completely unpredictable. Don't push too hard and don't expect to brake at the very last moment.
2. Brake early, coast into turns, and accelerate smoothly to give some space for slight position skew around turns.
3. Remember that the car must start abot 30-50cm before the finish line, to give it time to catch the speed it had when the lap was recorded.

Enjoy and let us know. Drive safely
 

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Gary Skipp
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Downloaded


I will set up a track during the Christmas hols and report my findings


We don't need autonomy for the 24 hrs guys, but somebody running 20 cars plus pace car may find it useful. Maybe in the future, Maurizio could write a modified version of the algorithm so the enter pit lane change direction is always on, and the car stops completely after entering pit lane.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
QUOTE (LMP @ 18 Dec 2015, 18:03) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Downloaded


I will set up a track during the Christmas hols and report my findings


We don't need autonomy for the 24 hrs guys, but somebody running 20 cars plus pace car may find it useful. Maybe in the future, Maurizio could write a modified version of the algorithm so the enter pit lane change direction is slegata on, and the car stops completely after entering pit lane.

Well I think this is entirely possible but needs custom firmware.
Actually, it's not that difficult. Starting a safety car when there a yellow flag, bringing it back to the pit lane, and stopping it automatically is quite trivial - don't forget O2 already can drive cars albeit at fixed speed and can herd cars back to pits . We need to add speed playback... It will require one controller linked to the car.
 

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Maurizio, outstanding work! It maybe an Alpha version but works exactly as you have said. Looking forward to future enhancements. I can only imagine a day when this software in integrated with PC Lap Counter and "real" ghost car racing becomes part of the fun. Autonomous driving at its finest.
 

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Vendor
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Mark, you gave us an idea which is quite feasible.

What we can do with little effort is a Safety Car behaving as follows:

Every time the system is in 'yellow flag' mode, the Safety Car leaves the pit lane and starts lapping at a predefined speed. When the yellow flag is turned off, the safety car goes back to the pit lane and stops.
To do so, we need to slightly modify the in-car code so that the safety car can silently work on the frequency of one of the other running cars, reading racing data, in particular, whether the system is in yellow flag mode or not. We also need to tell the car whether the pit lane is to the right or the left.
It will not need a controller as it will 'piggyback' read data from another car's controller.

This should be possible with relatively little effort and I think it should work with PC Lap Counter.
We'll start working on that.

Before you ask... why not integrate it with self driving? In theory, it's possible, but as the car syncs on the FL, we'd have a problem as the car should leave from the pit lane, and there would be no syncing. A possible workaround is to let the SC do the first lap at predefined speed, then moving to self driving mode as soon as the FL is crossed, or, if the sum of two laps is less than 15", record two laps - one for the pit lane exit, the other one for the 'standard' lap.
 
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