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     Volume 1 Issue 5 | September 3, 2006 |


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'Robo-car' on the road

Mahmdur Rahman ,Carmi Rocky Halder

A car is running on the road and it doesn't seem to have any driver!

Though it doesn't have any driver it is moving quite smoothly avoiding every obstacle. Just a few days ago it could be in someone's dream. But today, it is reality. Yes, four young students of American International University Bangladesh (AIUB) have done it with their dedication, hard work and the touch of their super creativity. Md. Safiqul Islam, Md. Rezaul Hoque, A.K.M. Nazmul Hasan and Md. Mizanur Rahman are the four students of Computer Engineering who have created this wonderful autonomous vehicle which they named 'ROBO-CAR' under the observation of their project supervisor Md. Rezaul Bari, Associate Professor and Faculty Coordinator (Faculty of Engineering).

As the final design project of the university they were thinking to make something very innovative. At that time their project supervisor Md. Rezaul Bari told them about a robot called 'FIRE FIGHTING BOT' which was actually a project of a robot competition at 'TRINITY COLLEGE' in USA. A 'FIRE FIGHTING BOT' is such a robot that can detect fire and go to the spot avoiding any obstacle and can take necessary actions to stop the fire. This magnificent idea made them think to make a robot for their final project. But when they were working on it, they found that it was very difficult to implement since it is a huge task to complete within three months. Also it needs a lot of technical equipment which are not available in Bangladesh. At this point they were thinking to put into operation this project partially. So, they started to think of it and finally decided to make an autonomous car that will move without any human control and will be able to detect the obstacle. By sensing the obstacle it will be able to make a decision to choose the right path. Thus the concept of 'ROBO-CAR 'came in to being.

Working priciples of robo-car
'ROBO-CAR 'can sense any obstacle around it and according to the obstacle it can make its way to move. A toy car has been used as a sample to apply as the 'ROBO-CAR'. It has four ultra sonic sensors to detect any obstacle. Two of them are placed at the front and rest of the two are placed on the right and left side. The front sensors have the first priority to check whether any obstacle is in front of the 'ROBO-CAR 'or not. These sensors can find the obstacle to a distance of 3.5 meters but the function of the 'ROBO-CAR' starts working when the obstacle is within 2.5 feet. If there is any obstacle at front, the right sensor and left sensor will sense if any obstacle exists on both right side and left side. If it finds obstacle in both sides then it will try to find out the best path to move ahead by calculating the distance from it. It will choose the side that has more distance to the obstacle. According to this decision it will choose the best path and move ahead. Now, question is what will the 'ROBO-CAR 'do if it finds Obstacle all around it within 2.5 feet? When the sensors will detect obstacle all around the 'ROBO-CAR 'it will start to move back for 0.9 second. And after this small period of time it will again start checking the obstacle only on the right and left side. This is how it will always take information from the environment by the sensors and will take decisions to move around.

Project designers with supervisor Md. Rezaul Bari

Architecture and construction of robo-car
'ROBO-CAR 'consists of three basic parts in construction: Sensor Brain Actuator
A sensor actually takes information from the environment and sends it to a system that produces a result for the actuators. In 'ROBO-CAR 'a special kind of sensor is used. The name of this special sensor is 'ULTRASONIC RANGE FINDER'. This sensor is not available in Bangladesh. It was actually brought by the group members of this project from England. It costs hundred dollars and it was a set of five pieces. This ultra sonic sensor works at a frequency of 40 kHz. Human ear can hear from 20 Hz to 20 KHz range of frequency. Anything up above that is called ultra sonic frequency. The 'ULTRASONIC RANGE FINDER 'sensor has two modules. By one of the module it transmits a sound by 40 KHz range which makes an echo if it reflects with an obstacle and the echo is returned and received by the other module. This is how a sensor detects an obstacle and receives information of environment. After sensing the situation from the environment a sensor sends the information to the brain of the 'ROBO-CAR 'which is actually a Microcontroller.

Brain of a robot actually takes the information from outside through the sensors and thus takes the actions by its physical part. In case of 'ROBO-CAR 'a BS-2 Microcontroller is used as brain. A BS-2 Microcontroller is a 24 pin chip. Of them 16 pins are used for Input and Output .4 pins are actually used for sensor input. Rest of the pins is used to connect into the serial port of a Computer. This connection is needed to write the command on the chip by the computer. These commands are actually the actions that the 'ROBO-CAR 'takes after making a decision. The commands are written in a special programming language which is called P-Basic. The whole procedure was done in the EMBEDDED LAB of American International University Bangladesh .

Actuator is the device of a robot by which the brain controls the actions he needs to take. For 'ROBO-CAR 'the actuator is the wheel of the car. The sensors take the information from the environment, sends it to the brain and according to the information the brain takes a decision and controls the situation by the wheels (actuators). Whenever it gets the best path to move the wheel moves to that side.
Words from the designers
After working for three months the students had accomplished the project successfully. “Initially we were scared whether we will be able to complete the project within the time but when we started working with it we were excited with the movement of the CAR” said one of the members of the group, Md. Safiqul Islam. While designing the project they faced a lot of difficulties. But these difficulties made them more eager to finish the Project. In the end their hard work paid off with this wonderful creation. They are very much grateful to their supervisor Md. Rezaul Bari and two other Computer Engineering teachers: Hasan Tarek Imam and Israfil Biswas. They are also very much thankful to the Embedded lab of American International University Bangladesh. “Without the EMBEDDED LAB we would not have completed this project” they said.

A dream is yet to come
“At first I was very much concerned about the project whether the students will be able to finish it in due time, but now I am very satisfied with them that they have done it successfully.” these were the words of a very pleased supervisor Md. Rezaul Bari. But a dream is still to become true. 'ROBO-CAR' was a project inspired by the 'FIRE FIGHTING BOT '. Due to shortage of time and limitation of equipment the project was not fully implemented. Talking about the future plan of the project Md. Rezaul Bari said “Our next plan is that 'ROBO-CAR' will be able to detect fire, go to the fire avoiding obstacles and take necessary steps to stop the fire.” Who knows one day it may happen, a houses is on fire but no one is worried because the 'ROBO-CAR' is on the way.

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