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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1 Objective

1.2 Background

2. Project Description and Goals

3. Technical Specification

4. Design Approach and Details

4.1 Design Approach

4.2 Codes and Standards

4.3 Constraints, Alternatives and Tradeoffs

5. Schedule, Tasks and Milestones

6. Project Demonstration and recoded video during the final review to be submitted to the project


7. Cost Analysis

8. Summary

9. References

Appendix A

1. Introduction

Many Scalextric customers have difficulty finding human opponents to race against. The

Autonomous Slot-car enables customers to race against a computer controlled opponent that can be set

at various difficulties. This will let customers get the most out of their purchase and keep them

interested in Scalextric increasing the likelihood of repeat purchases.

1.1 Objective

The Autonomous Slot-car system will consist of a special car, sensors on the track and computer

control software. It will provide a range of features to enhance the single player experience of a

Scalextric product. It will be able to race competitively against the customer at various difficulty levels.

1.2 Motivation

One common problem with racing Slot-cars is the lack of an opponent to race against. This

results in infrequent use of the product and boredom for the customer. Such customers are very unlikely

to purchase Scalextric products in future because of the under-utilization of their past purchase. The

Autonomous Slot-car would enable such customers to race against a computer controlled opponent of

variable difficulty. This will help maintain the customers’ interest in the Scalextric product and encourage

them to expand their tracks, cars and accessories.

1.3 Background

Scalextric produced a similar Slot car called the Challenger in 2004 for $100, it has since been

withdrawn from the market. The Challenger used a micro-controller on the car to regulate the speed of

the car. While there were two speed options, they were both not challenging for experienced racers with

good cars [1] [2].

The Challenger used an optical sensor to detect speed but there was only one position sensor to

detect the beginning of the track, therefore on a crash the Challenger has to restart from the beginning

[3]. The main attraction and drawback of the challenger was its wooden consistency, delivering lap after

lap of exactly the same time. Enthusiasts liked this racing profile but the car was not fast enough for

them, but amateurs found it intimidating, especially since there were only two speeds and the transition

between them was steep.

The Autonomous Slot-car will be able to offer much more customization of the racing profile

because of the computer software. Since the player’s car is also being monitored the Autonomous Slot-

car can scale its performance based on that of the player if necessary. It can also adjust its difficulty level

on a more precise level, which removes the steep learning curve present on the Challenger. The

Autonomous Slot-car will offer more features than the Challenger at a similar price.

2. Project Description and Goals

The goal of the Slot-car project is to build a car that autonomously maneuvers itself around any

given track. In order to do this it should be able to sense its own position on the track, relay the

information to a workstation and be able to compute the required speed. The project has been divided

into three broad areas to achieve the targeted functionality:

 Obtaining data about current position and speed from the car’s environment through the use of

position sensors.

 Relaying the information obtained previously to the control station using wireless technology.

 Control algorithms to adjust the speed of the car based on its position on the track.

The only existing competitor currently is the Scalextric Challenger System which costs $100.

Therefore, the targeted price for the automated Slot-car system is the same cost or lower. The lower

price would not only reflect simplicity in the implementation of the system by non-technical customers,

but it would also provide for competitive pricing.

The Slot-car system is being designed with children, car enthusiasts and car toy manufacturers in

mind. Since the end customer would not necessarily have a technical background, ease of use and

simplicity in setup of the system are the top priorities. This system is also being designed to cater to the

needs of car toy manufacturers who may want to implement this system into their end products. For this

purpose the system is being designed to minimize lap time, reduce the number of accidents on the track

and have a contingency algorithm to continue after an accident.

With the above mentioned goals in mind, the automated Slot-car system will have the following


 Autonomous control of the car around the track

 Continual knowledge of its position on the track and instantaneous speed

 Speed control depending on the section of the track

 Contingency control algorithm to resume race after an accident has occurred

In addition, the automated Slot-car system will also have the following features:

 Ease of use and simplicity in implementation

 Adaptability to any track geometry input by the user

 Option to choose different difficulty levels

 Ability to read the human player’s control movements
Table 1. Technical specifications for the automated Slotcar system.
 Sensor placement algorithm to guide the user on placing sensors along the track
Operational Specifications Value

Controller Voltage Range 0-16V

3. Technical Specification
Performance Specifications
While the overall goals, strategies and objectives have been stated, the specifications of the
Positional accuracy +/- 0.4mm (0.3% Accuracy)
components will be determined as they are identified for their applicability in the project. The overall

system accuracy
meet the specifications stated in Table 1. +/- 1mm/s (0.1% Accuracy)

Failures per lap 0.2

Speed range 0 – 950 mm/s

Contingency algorithm to resume race after an accident.

Interface Specifications

Compatibility with Track Designer.

Compatibility with wireless technology used.

Compatibility with microcontroller used for centralized control.

Physical Specifications

Cost < $100

4. Design Approach and Details

4.1 Design Approach

Position and speed sensors

The autonomous Slot-car system uses a transmitter and position sensor with a series of sensors

to figure out the car’s current location on the track. In order to establish a frame of reference, a special

sensor will also be placed at the start point of the race track. This special sensor will have multiple


 Error correction - It will provide for error correction by resetting the position of the car when it

passes this transmitter every lap, instead of leading up to cumulative sensor errors.

 Transmitter placement – This transmitter will provide the initial point for sensor placement.

From this point on, the placement of the remaining transmitters will be determined based on

the transmitter distribution algorithm (explained further in the following sections).

Once the sensors have been placed and their positions along the track noted, the position

sensor placed on the car itself allows the car to figure out its own position on the track (relative to the

sensors, i.e. relative to the start point). Additionally, once the sensor placement is determined with the

distribution algorithm, consecutive position readings from the position sensor will allow speed

computations to be made. However for instantaneous speed computations, an optical speed sensor may

have to be used as well.

Wireless Transmission of Position Data

There will be a wireless transmitter mounted on the Slot-car that transmits position data. There

will also be wireless receiver interfaced to a computer that will receive the position data and make the

necessary adjustments to the track voltage.

Control Algorithm

There are a finite number of track segments types sold and the curvatures of these segments are

standardized. The speed profile i.e. the desired speed at each position along the track segment, for the

current segment of track is based upon the curvature of the current segment as well as that of an

appropriate number of future segments. The determination of the speed profiles will be learnt by trial

and error in the lab but the software will be capable of making adjustments to the profile based on

conditions on the track as the race goes on.

While the traditional and optimal solution for racing uses only full acceleration and full braking,

the control algorithm allows for the use of any desired acceleration. This will help in the creation of

different driving profiles for the cars, especially by artificially limiting acceleration or top speed etc. The

aim is to offer the possibility of profiling an assortment of commercially available cars as well as a variety

of driving styles.

Voltage Control

A D to A converter will be used to take the digital speed profile from the computer and send it to

the track to control the Slot-car. Since the D to A converter has an output voltage range of +/- 10 volts,

there will have to be appropriate circuitry to scale the voltage to meet the standards of the Scalextric


4.2 Codes and Standards

The current choice for our wireless module is Bluetooth. The receiver and transmitter to be used

will have to be compliant with Bluetooth regulations. Also, the voltage put onto the track by our D to A

converter must be compliant with the Scalextric standard to ensure that our Slot-car does not have an

unfair advantage in terms of voltage being delivered to it. The voltage range of the Scalextric track is 0-16

Volts. Also for safety reasons the D to A converter cannot put out a voltage exceeding 16 volts since it

could damage the Slot-car as well as the track or any other devices attached to it.

4.3 Constraints, Alternatives and Tradeoffs

Accuracy and simplicity of use are two fundamental issues for this product. Instead of tracking

the car with position sensors, an accelerometer could be placed on the car and its G forces could be

wirelessly transmitted and controlled with a receiver. However, accelerometers are not accurate enough

to measure such small G forces like those that a Slot-car feels. Also, the propagation delay of transmitting

the accelerometer data along with the control algorithm would make the control sluggish and

unresponsive. In addition, an accelerometer would be more expensive than purchasing a series of

sensors. The added weight of an accelerometer would also hinder the performance of the Slot-car.

Letting the end user enter track information into a piece of software is preferred to designing a

system where the Slot-car learns the track. While using a track learning algorithm saves the user from

having to enter track information, it is more inaccurate than having software determine the cars position.

Since all track pieces for Slot-cars are standardized, a track building software can determine more

accurately the position of the car. As an added bonus, the track creator can exactly model any track

conceivable by the user since the track pieces are standardized.

Using software is more advantageous than designing a micro-controller system. A piece of

software is easier for the end user to use and is more interactive. Plus, it offers scalability such as letting

the user enter different difficulties for the competing Slot-car. Also, since it is just a piece of software,

downloadable upgrades can easily be made available.

Optical sensors are a better choice than hall sensors due to their accuracy and ease of

implementation. Hall sensors are a poor choice since they have to be within 2-3mm of a magnet to get a

reading. Optical sensors, while more expensive, will provide a highly accurate reading and can be

conveniently placed on the tracks edge.

Inapplicable sensor technologies

The first choices for position sensors were Hall sensors. These measure the change in magnetic

field due to an object (stationary or in motion). However, this technology does not function for the given

situation as Hall sensors need to be placed within ~2mm of the changing magnetic field in order to

detect the position of the moving object. Note that a constant magnetic field could be disturbed by

affixing a magnet to the car itself.

The current choice being researched is line trackers. These are most commonly used in robotic

applications. While it is possible to build one using photodiodes, an off-the-shelf part would probably be

the component of choice.

Minimum requirements for ADC and DAC

A large number of preliminary readings were taken in order to determine the fastest average

speed of the car. This was determined to be on the order of 950 mm/s. Since the ADC has a finite

computation time, this represents the worst case situation in terms of having position and velocity

errors. In order to meet the specifications of 0.3% position error and 0.1% velocity error, the minimum

sampling frequency for the ADC needs to be 2.5 KHz. Additionally, the minimum resolution in terms of

bits needs to be 10 bits.

5. Schedule, Tasks and Milestones

There are three major milestones as well as sever smaller tasks that must be achieved in order to

reach the milestones. The three milestones are:

 Controlling the Slot-car with the computer

 Tracking the position of the Slot-car

 Developing and Implementing a control algorithm to control the car

Tasks will be split up among group members according to each member’s level of expertise or

comfort. Each task will have a leader who is responsible for completion of that task. However, the other

group members are expected to provide assistance if needed. This way, an engineer can concentrate on

a task but still get help if needed. Also, each tasks` respective leader is held accountable if the task fails.

A Gantt chart outlining important tasks and goals can be seen in Appendix A.

6. Project Demonstration

The most important specification that the Autonomous Slot-car has to meet is to be competitive

against an experienced user while still being accessible to a tyro. Therefore the primary project

demonstration will pit the Autonomous Slot-car against two human opponents, one with less than 3

hours of experience and the other with more than 30 hours. The track for the demonstration will be

random with the only constraints being the available track segments and the necessity to make the two

paths the same length. If the Autonomous Slot-car can stay within half the track length of the opponent,

either leading or following then it is acceptable.

The secondary design presentation will test the other features such as the recording of a player’s

run, best time, and best speed, playback of the run etc. These features can be demonstrated but do not

have performance criteria to test against.

Due to the time required to build the track and set up the sensors, it is probably impractical to

have the demonstration live in the classroom. Therefore a video of the demonstration will be shown


7. Marketing and Cost Analysis

7.1 Marketing Analysis

The only other automated Slot-car controller available is the Scalextric Challenger. However, it is limited

in terms of features and robustness. The Slot-car has to perform a “learning lap” before it can start a

race. Reviews state that the Challenger does not provide enough of a challenge to address the issue of

not having another competitor to race with [4].

Our product will have a scalable interface that can be tailored to a variety of users ranging from

seasoned Slot-car enthusiasts to young children. The PC interface allows the user to set the desired

difficulty of the Slot-car. In addition, our system will be much more accurate in tracking the location of

the Slot-car. This means that over many laps, the system will still be able to track the location of the car.

Since the bulk of the calculations will be done by a CPU, the software can be upgraded via downloads

from the web. It can also log best times in addition to other statistics.

7.2 Cost Analysis

Table 3. Cost analysis for the autonomous Slot-car system [5] [6].
Overhead 40% of parts $22.14
ADC $ 3.89
DAC $ 2.48
Line Sensor (Transmitters) $35.00
RS 232 Cable $ 5.00
Magnet $ 9.00
Total Parts $55.37

Total Cost per Unit $77.52

Table 3 provides a detailed cost analysis on the required parts for the autonomous Slot-car

system. These are the additional components needed aside from the race car kit itself which includes the

car, the track, controllers and the base unit.

8. Summary

Currently, the design group is working on deciding which specific position sensor to use and how

to interface it with the transmitter. Different D to A converters are being looked into . Once a suitable

converter is chosen, it will be purchased and interfacing with it with the computer will begin. Preliminary

designs for a track building software are being made and small portions of C code are being tested as


9. References

[1] “CHALLENGER SYSTEM + Mercedes silver,” 2008, http://www.scalextric.com/cars-3/challenger-


[2] S Smith (2004, Jan 5). CHALLENGER. Scalextric USA. Available:


[3] A. Smith. (2004 Jan. 18). The Scalextrix Challenger. Slotcar Illustrated [website]. Available:


[4] Harry. (2004 Jan. 8). Challenge Yourself. Home Racing World [website]. Available:


[5] Digi-key Corporation. http://www.digikey.com/

[6] Alldatasheet. http://www.alldatasheet.com/

Appendix A
Gantt Chart