Elcano DIY robot kit

The Elcano Project is developing low-cost hardware and software kits to convert any vehicle to self-drive. We are concentrating on recumbent tricycles, since that produces a real people mover at a total cost of under $5000. Our kits could also be used in full-sized cars or toy RC cars.

The kits are based on Arduino microcontrollers, and allow you to connect them robustly into a compact, low power package. The open source software is written in C++ and can run on many other platforms. The basic package uses several processors:

  • C2 – Dual control: low level vehicle control, either from the driver or the AI.
  • C3 – Pilot: Detects obstacles and feeds settings for the next path segment to C2.
  • C4 – Path Planner: Computes the best route from current location to destination.
  • C5 – Obstacle detection from sonars.
  • C6 – Navigator: Reads GPS, INU, Odometer, Compass etc. to get best position estimate.
  • C7 – Vision: Locates certain features of interest (Raspberry Pi)..

Processing is supported by a set of custom circuit boards:

  • MegaShieldDB – Plugs into C2 and brings out signals on robust cables, making the wheels spin and steer.
  • MegaShieldTrio – Houses C3,  C6, INU and GPS.
  • Sonar – Houses eight sonar range finders.
  • RC – Interface to a standard model airplane/car radio controller; passes signals to C2.

The low level processor is C2, which is concerned with the specific vehicle. Other processors form the high-level Artificial Intelligence.

The MegaShieldTrio board originally held three processors. However the C4 mapping processor software has outgrown the original Arduino Micro, and is now hosted on an Arduino Mega.  The standard configuration uses an Arduino Mega for C6 and C4, and Arduino Micros for C3 and C5. The Mega SDK is a USB host and will interface to an Android smart phone.. The main communications link between processors is serial.

The C7 vision processor may be any suitable platform (such as Raspberry Pi), and communicates with C6 over USB at low-bandwidth. The link is restricted to text with images staying on the C7 processor. The C7 processor could be quite extensive, and incorporate V2V, I2V, radar and Lidar. The system will work without any C7 processor.

Open Source Autonomy