Motivated by the growing interest in the self-driving car industry, Dan Goncharov is leading a project to create autonomous car kits to give people access to self-driving technology and a hands-on experience with neural networks, cloud computing, and basic hardware skills.
Thanks to 42’s unique community, Dan formed the Robotics Club, a team of hard-working students. Together, they completed an early prototype of the project in the span of two months. They heavily modified a store-bought RC car and put their own custom electronics in, based on ESP8266. The stereoscopic camera mounts were 3D modeled and laser cut by the students themselves. The team also utilized machine learning by developing a convolutional neural network (CNN) trained on a Google Cloud GPU instance that is then inferenced on a local workstation. This enabled the car to avoid obstacles by analyzing video input.
Currently, the project is ready to be used for educational purposes. The Robotics Club and the 42 staff plan to launch the product with potential partnerships with companies in the Bay Area.
Interview with Dan, Self-driving Car Team Lead
Name: Dan Goncharov
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Interests: Robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence
“42 is the hub for smart people”
What is the goal of your project?
To give people access to self-driving technology via a hands-on experience.
Describe the work your team did for the project.
We started with electronics. We took the “guts” out of an RC car and replaced the electronics. Instead of radio controls and analog servo, we put in a wifi-enabled ESP8266 board and digital servo-motor. We also modified the cameras and designed the mounts. We used the local TechShop facilities to do the laser cutting. We used an Nvidia pilotNet as an inspiration for our nine-layer CNN to clone the driver’s behavior.
What was the most difficult?
Everything was hard. If one part failed, the whole project would have failed.
What did you enjoy most about your project?
The project is hardware. I like hardware projects, mechanical things. It is much easier to show your work if it is tangible.
What kind of support did you receive from 42?
42 is awesome. 42 brought these people here. It is the hub for smart people. It gave me the opportunity to meet these people and get them on a team. 42 funded the project, providing the materials and parts, but because we don’t have the proper equipment here, we still had to go to the TechShop for fabrication. In the future, maybe two or three months, we would have a hardware studio downstairs with basic tools. That would be awesome.
What is your dream job or long-term career goals?
That is a hard question. I usually don’t take traditional roles. I make my own products and I put them on the market. So, for me, it is important to make something of value that will stay there, something that many people will use. My decision to join 42 was because I believe that 42 is disruptive; that 42 will grow tremendously. I enjoy being surrounded by smart people. And by knowing that there is such a talented group of people with a wide range of skills, I know for sure we will be able to make something of it.
published by Kim Alvarez – October 26, 2017