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Aussie Uses Arduino Chips to Roboticize a Ford Focus

He also used a few cameras, which fit neatly into the car's ultrasound ports

1 min read
Australian tinkerer turns his Ford Focus into a self-driving car with $700 in add-ons.
Image: Keran McKenzie

Update October 20, 2016: Several readers and other news outlets say there is less truth to this guy's claims than you'll find on a chocolate frog card, and Spectrum is trying to find out.

The hard part of getting cars to drive themselves is the last niggling 1 percent of reliability. That’s the bit that has so far stymied even the tech giants and auto titans who are developing self-driving cars.

But roboticizing the first 90-plus percent of driving is easy-peasy, as Keran McKenzie, of Melbourne, Australia, shows in his hack of a Ford Focus. He began by asking himself why the “home” button on the car can only let the driver plot a trip back home. Why not have it actually drive the car home as well?

So he took out his car’s recessed ultrasound sensors (good for short-range work, like parking) and replaced them with five little cameras backed by the hacker’s friend, Arduino processors. Next, he hooked these up to a master processor situated at the back of the engine compartment. Then he piped some of the output into a display in the cabin, so he’d know how the system was working. Total cost, McKenzie says, was less than a grand, presumably in Australian dollars—the equivalent of about US $770.

That’s not half bad for an IT guy whose main job is in automating workplace systems. It’s not even 10 percent bad. But it wasn’t quite good enough for use on a public road, as he learns about 10 seconds into his drive (at 3:00 in the following clip).

Okay, so maybe McKenzie’s surprise is feigned, as if he meant to say, “Don’t try this at home, kids!” 

The Conversation (0)

We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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