What is a Pi-Car?
A Pi-Car is a radio controlled car that you are able to control from a program running on your Raspberry Pi.
Why does a Pi-Car exist?
The Pi-Cars mission is life is that anyone who uses it will:
- Be able to get it working with the Raspberry Pi
- Learn something about programming and / or electronics whilst having fun
- Be inspired to do more and more advanced things with the Pi-Car, Raspberry Pi and other technology
And if the mission is not achieved? Well it is still just a radio controlled car that you can have fun playing with…
What is it? A bit more precisely please….
To make a Pi-Car we have added some electronics to the controller of the radio controlled car so that the functions of the controller – forwards, back, left, right and any others such as turbo – are available through a connector.
What this means is that you can then take a Pi-Car cable and plug in one end to the connector on the controller and the other end onto the GPIO pins of the Raspberry Pi – the GPIO pins are the (26) small prongs on the top corner of the Raspberry Pi.
Any program or script that you run on the Raspberry Pi can address each one of these pins individually so that you can turn them on and off. They can even be accessed from programs you create in Scratch .
When the cable is connected to the GPIO pins and a pi-car, if you turn one of the pins on from your program or Scratch – for example pin 12 – the Raspberry Pi will put a bit of voltage across pin 12. This then travels down the relevant wire in the cable to the controller and triggers the relevant function for that particular wire. In Pi-Cars pin 12 will normally move the car forwards. So setting pin 12 from your program will result in exactly the same end result as moving the lever on the controller forwards. Turning pin 12 off will stop the car moving.
Hooray! You can now control your radio controlled car from a program. This opens up a whole world of possibilities. Firstly it is a fun way of learning about programming, my young (5 and 6 yr old) sons decided to write a routine in Scratch to make the Pi-Car skid round the corner:
Beyond this there are a number of much more advanced things that you can do to learn about different areas of programming. The people who entered our competition had a whole range of ideas around this such as using image detection programs to detect obstacles and then control the car accordingly. We’ll be publishing more ideas of what to do with Pi-Cars shortly.