From our blog at Scionlife.com
What's the craziest modification you've considered doing to your Scion? Full-kitchen with running water and gas stove? Installing a hot tub? Replacing all of the body panels with flat-screen televisions and cameras to make it turn invisible? (That last one's probably a bad idea, if it worked)
I'm a project manager for Perrone Robotics and we, along with some students from the University of Virginia, have decided to modify our Scion xB in a way that is maybe not as crazy as the ideas above, but maybe is a little crazier.
We want our Scion to drive itself around a city.
Our car is named Tommy Jr., and he's performing in the DARPA Urban Challenge. The goal of the UC is to take upwards of 80 teams and see how many of them can get their vehicles to the point where they can drive themselves in a city, with other moving vehicles, obeying traffic laws, without, you know, hitting anything. The course is 60 miles long, and we have 10 hours to complete it.
Now, not all 80 teams will make it. It's been whittled down once to 53 teams, and we've recently shown off our car to visiting DARPA people to show how well Tommy is doing so far. (DARPA is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a branch of the Pentagon for trying to do, basically, science-fiction things). On August 10, we'll learn if we've made it to the National Qualifying Event which takes place in late October. Roughly 30 teams will make it there, and probably around 10 will make it to the final event in early November.
Why am I telling you all of this? Same reasons everone else posts to the board. We think it's cool, and want to show off. We want to inspire other people to try to think of new ways to make their Scion xBs better. And because, from time to time, we run into problems, and when that happens, we like to ask you for help.
The great thing about Team Jefferson is that, unlike other teams, we don't have millions of dollars to spend on getting a robot working. So far, we've spent about $50-60k, including the car and paying people to work on it. All of the parts are commercially available. Everything is within reach of a few clever people who want to spend a little more money than average on a very custom car. Oh, sure, it's a bit more expensive than the general hobbyist project, but I've seen others that cost more over time.
Anyways, this was just a quick (ahem) introduction. Soon we'll post some more details about the actual ways we've taken Tommy apart and put him back together again. Better. Maybe stronger. And probably quite a bit slower. But definitely better.