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I would like to build a remote controlled car. And if someone already has a good solution for that I would be glad to try it.

It's been a while since I had the time and material to build some LEGO creations. And now I am willing to start anew.

Last time I toyed with LEGO there were electric engines and such, but all I had was remote controlled with a cable and the functions were very basic. I am looking for a more advanced and wireless solution.

I am aware of the Power Functions. But I have no experience with these. Would these be a good start? What are the other options?


Edit: Mindstorms as suggested in a few answers could be the solution, but I am not sure it will be practical yet...

It seems there was an official line of LEGO RC cars at some point. I was thinking about something more like it. Existing LEGO RC car8675 Outdoor Challenger

Although I'd like to avoid cutting and gluing 3rd party components I don't mind hacking a few parts together to get something really cool.

As suggested by @pcantin there are adapters I could buy to interface LEGO with 3rd party engines etc... I will look into it. But I would appreciate some better pointers in this regard.


Edit I am already aware of the Power Functions IR remote control It's a good solution to start with (now), but I was looking for something more advanced.

I have never heard of Arduino before, but as a developper I am absolutely thrilled by this solution. I won't have the time to test it now. But it could become the answer I was looking for.

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1  
Some inspiration on YouTube: LEGO technic car with Power functions. Hats off to this chap! –  Umber Ferrule Oct 25 '11 at 22:16
4  
This is probably my favourite all lego rc car - youtube.com/watch?v=jHWDSnWk2jU –  Cameron MacFarland Oct 26 '11 at 10:35
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Here's one I made last year. (phillipecantin.blogspot.com/2011/10/lego-rc-car.html) –  pcantin Oct 29 '11 at 15:51
    
@pcantin I like the form factor! very efficient! –  Coyote Nov 8 '11 at 14:04
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6 Answers

The 9398-1: 4x4 Crawler is an interesting candidate with the new servo motor. It comes in 2H2012. There are more pictures on TechnicBricks.

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Personally I would go with Arduino (on the car) and an Android phone as the controller (via bluetooth). There's plenty of reference on the web about mixing the two.

The main problem is interfacing with non Lego parts (motors, PCB, ...). Luckily, you can find Lego adapter parts in many Robot/Electronic sites. For example at Pololu: http://www.pololu.com/search?query=lego&x=0&y=0

Edit 1 (Howto) Android bluetooth communication: There's the main page and the sample (I started from that one and modified it). You can also use the 'Sena Bterm' app to send and receive characters (no programming necessary but very basic).

Arduino bluetooth communication: This is the most simple part. All you need is a bluetooth breakout board and connect it to the Arduino like so. Using the board is as simple as any normal Serial communication ex:

void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(115200);
}

int inByte = 0;

void loop()
{
  if (Serial.available() > 0) 
  {
    inByte = Serial.read();

    if(inByte == '1'){
       Serial.println("test1");
    } else {
       Serial.println("test2");
    }
  }
}

This code reads the incoming bytes and write 'test1' or 'test2' in return.

Hardware: this is the coolest part because you get to do what ever you want. I personal use a lot of Lego Technics and sometime modified them to interface with foreign parts. Search the web and you'll find cool Lego-compatible stuff like this servo joint, this servo bracket or this wheel.

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You have the most interesting answer ATM, but do you know any good tutorials which could help me with the planning of such a project? –  Coyote Oct 25 '11 at 22:05
1  
I've added more details in 'Edit 1' –  pcantin Oct 26 '11 at 10:44
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Thank you! I have never heard of Arduino. After checking out the main website it seems to be a solution I would enjoy a lot. I will probably start with the LEGO Power Functions and as soon as I get one of the Arduino boards I'll start playing with that. –  Coyote Oct 26 '11 at 12:19
    
Cool. When you get there, if you have any questions I'll be there –  pcantin Oct 26 '11 at 12:23
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I use a Mindstorms NXT brick and an Android smartphone for my remote controlled tank. The downside is that the NXT motors are slower than the regular Power Functions motors, and connecting PF motors to the NXT brick requires additional components.

Personally, I am satisfied with NXT motors and don't bother kludging PF motors. (Yet.)

Here is a modular truck design as an example: http://www.nxtprograms.com/MTV/index.html
I use this app for my remote control: https://market.android.com/details?id=org.jfedor.nxtremotecontrol

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LEGO have produced an IR Speed Remote Control unit as part of their current "Power Functions" range.

This offers:

  • Features 4 RC channels, 2 stop button and 2 direction control switches!
  • Use the jog wheels to control your motor speed!

IR Speed Remote Control

You will also need the receivers as well.

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The MindStorms NXT controller can work over bluetooth:

http://mindstorms.lego.com/

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Bonus points for using your android phone accelerometer to determine the vehicle direction. Super fun to do, and the effect on people is great. –  Joubarc Oct 26 '11 at 14:09
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I saw an official Lego remote control car at the Lego Store once and I should have gotten it that day because I haven't seen it again.

That said, with Mindstorms and a bluetooth enabled phone it should be possible to build one one your own.

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Mindstorms and bluetooth? Do you have any links? –  Coyote Oct 25 '11 at 20:28
    
@Coyote I wish I had links! But since the NXT 2.0 supports bluetooth it should be possible to control it from a phone and I'm sure I've seen that (though it was probably too laggy). –  tooshel Nov 8 '11 at 17:25
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