Toy Car Hack

"Synthetic Rodent Developement"

This car measures just 5 1/2 inches in length.  It was sold as a remote control car for $19.95 at Fry's Electronics here in Phoenix.  Powered by 4 AAA batteries, it has a small dc motor and a very interesting steering mechanism.

After gutting the original electronics, a piece of circuit board was cut to size and mounted with one screw.  The circuit board is pad-per-hole type and the wiring on the bottom is done with tiny pieces of 30 guage (wire wrap) wire soldered between points.

A check of the schematicshows several intersting features.   Visual detection is done with a pair of (matched) photocells.   This type of cell works at even very low light levels.  By using a pair in series feeding a 3 level comparator circuit, light sources can be determined to be from left, right, or center.   The photo cells are physically located to 'look' through a hole drilled in the black plastic windshield.

The motor drive circuit has an adjustable current level detector.   This detects motor 'stalls' and is used to determine when an object has been hit.

To save power in 'sleep' mode,  the PIC powers down the entire external circuit (the op-amp and associeated resistor networks) when not needed.

It was dificult to get a good photo of the steering mechanism, so check the drawing.  A permanent magnet 'floats' on a pair of pivots and is held centered by being attracted to a fixed set of metal pole pieces.   When power is applied to the solenoid, the pole pieces move the magent to the left or right.   Not really good for proportional control, but a damn nifty way to steer.

This is an ongoing project to see how 'smart' this device can be made to behave.  The current state of the program is available as usual here.