For those who want a shot at the DARPA Grand Challenge but can't afford the gear, a Japanese company is offering a 1/10-scale robot-powered model car with all the bells and whistles so they can at least get their autonomous feet wet.
It's still not cheap, but at $7,000 the ZMP Car Robotics Platform, or RoboCar, provides all the tools needed to test your applied robotic technology, autonomous movement, and inter-vehicular and car/human communications expertise (PDF).
The RoboCar includes a built-in stereo camera, image recognition module, laser range finder, gyro and acceleration sensors, independent rotary encoders for the four wheels and infrared distance sensors. User applications include a built-in OS, communication with PC applications, and wireless communication with Wi-Fi for other plug-ins.
Full-scale robotic car platforms are costly and require a lot of space, so the company came up with the RoboCar, which provides a perfect solution for students, seat-of-the-pants researchers, and over-the-top hobbyists.
It's a perfect teaching tool for universities or companies to train students or staff on control theory, automated control systems, or development process, according to ZMP. With the automotive industry rapidly evolving toward next-generation intelligent cars, it's important students be given the opportunity to work on sophisticated systems and gain the skills they can use after graduating, the company said.
Well, it's perfect for the dads and grads that have everything, that's for sure.