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Description: This is one cool little car. This simple, two-wheel drive chassis has a rack-and-pinion style steering mechanism so it turns like a car, not like a tank. Also, the drive motor is geared-down to the live axle in the back and provides plenty of speed and torque for driving on relatively flat terrain.

Did we mention that it comes with a battery and a controller board? That's right, this is ready to drive pretty much out of the box! The on-board Bluetooth radio allows you to pair the car to your Bluetooth enabled Android device and use it to control the car. If you're not into the Android controller, you can build your own. The firmware on the car works by interpreting command bytes that are received over Bluetooth SPP at 9600 baud. You can find the list of control bytes in the documents below. We've paired ours to a PC using our Bluetooth USB Mini Module and passed command bytes to it using a serial terminal, it works great.

The board itself is a pair of simple motor drivers, a CSr Bluetooth module and an ATMega48V microcontroller. It has a built-in battery charging circuit which charges from the included USB charging cable. The fine folks at Dagu have also been kind enough to break-out two of the ADCs from the ATMega as well as the 6-pin ISP header so you can upload your own custom firmware. A copy of the original firmware which ships on the unit can be downloaded below.

The transparent vacuum-formed plastic cover provides the car with some sporty shape and stickers are even included so you can pimp your ride.

Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 3.5"

Features:

  • Wireless Control from your Android Phone or Tablet
  • Designed around ATMega48V Microcontroller
  • Simple Bluetooth SPP Interface (8-N-1 @ 9600)
  • Rechargeable Li-Poly Battery
  • Slick, Hard-Rubber Tires
  • Rack and Pinion Steering
  • Plastic Body Shell
  • Access to ADC and ISP pins
  • Power, Speed and Bluetooth Indicator LEDs

Includes:

  • i-Racer Platform
  • USB charging cable
  • Android Software CD
  • Sticker Sheet

Documents:

Comments 78 comments

  • Speed definitions in the command set are brilliant! LOL

    • Thanks!

      You’d be surprised how difficult it is to do without just saying “slow, faster, faster, faster, fast.”

  • Hi guys! This kit is very cool. It’s easy to customise by yourself. We played with the car, and roughly made a toy with camera on it. Here is the video and please come and see if you are interested in. Android controller source code is also available here. Enjoy! ;-)

  • Will you ever launch an app for ios (apple) devices do you can control the I-racer through that?

    • Honestly since its not our design probably not, but the command set is available for anyone who feels adventurous.

  • If you are experiencing power issues with your Iracer, it may have a battery that has been drained below the proper level.

    What you need to do is to take 5V (can be pulled from the charger) and apply it to the battery terminals directly in order to jumpstart the LiPo’s protection circuit. After doing this for about 5-10 times with a second delay between each time, I would try charging the i-Racer again. What you are doing is trying to “jump” start the battery again so it can hold a charge. The protection circuit on the board believes that the battery is dead, and jumpstarting it resets the protection circuit. This has been found to fix a number of Iracers power issues.

  • Is it possible to put the Arduino bootloader on the ATMega48V in this car? It would be a lot easier modifying the code (after rewriting it for Arduino, doesn’t look like it’d be too hard!)

    • So, I’ve been doing a bit of research. There are a few gotchas with arduino & this car:

      • The ATmega48 does not support a bootloader section (see page 7 of the ATmega48/88/168 Manual ). Consequently you’ll need to use an AVR programmer or “Arduino as ISP” option.
      • Secondly, the program posted above makes use of Timer options that the Arduino suite doesn’t support out of the box.
      • It makes use of timer0 for the steering & arduino uses this for the Arduino millis() and micros() functions (I’m not sure what impact this will have…)

      I’m posting my notes, code & other errata on my googlecode project page. If anyone is interested in collaborating, please let me know.

    • If you do rewrite the code in arduino, please post it. I’m interested.

  • Caveat Emptor. As other commenters have noted, it’s quite a deal for thirty bucks, but that’s only if it actually runs, which mine doesn’t. It’s easy to imagine that for thirty bucks something somewhere has to give, and in the case of my unit it appears to be quality control. I eventually traced the fault in my unit to a short in the rear drive motor due to the motor leads and bypass caps being sloppily mashed against the motor case, which appears to have fried the H-bridge for that motor (other things further up the chain may be dead, but that’s as far back as I’ve traced it as of this writing). It’s pretty evident this was a manufacturing issue rather than a shipping problem since the item and packaging were in good shape.

    No word from my Customer Service inquiry on the matter, but in any event the cost of shipping it back is enough with respect to the purchase price that I’m not even sure it’s worth returning given the cost of shipping it back. I’m not sanguine about the prospect of working on that SMD board, even with a Chipquik kit. Right now the I-RACER feels like thirty bucks down the drain.

    I’ve been a happy Sparkfun customer and continue to be one, as I’ve been consistently pleased with their product offerings and their service. That said, I don’t think the I-RACER measures up. To all those who are pleased with their purchase, I’m happy that their satisfied and I hope mine is an outlier case. For my part, however, perhaps it’s worth buying if you REALLY can’t afford anything more, or have low expectations, or plan to use it as a cheap throwaway in some destructive experiment, but I can’t recommend anyone purchase it otherwise. Sparkfun ought to consider getting rid of this product.

    • Hi nonpalindromic, Sorry to hear that your device has some issues. Please contact me with your order number, and I will try to get you squared away. You can reach me at techsupport@sparkfun.com I will be more than happy to help get you squared away. Thanks, Tim

  • adds to cart, checks back a couple days later when he has the money “out of stock” :(

  • The shell is held in place with 2-sided tape (it doesn’t just snap on). The wheelbase is 5-¼" with 2" diameter wheels on 0.12" axles and are not easily removable. It has real rack-and-pinion steering with a spring return to neutral (so it drives straight if there’s no power to the steering motor). The battery is a 3.7V protected type held in place with two-sided tape and looks to be about 750 mAh capacity. The ISP programming header is not supplied but it’s PTH so it’s easy to add. There are pads for a MMA7455L 3-axis accelerometer chip. There is a connector for a nRf24L01 type transceiver, but it’s buried under the bluetooth module so they are mutually exclusive radio options. It comes with a dozen stickers (8 android guys in various colors, 2 “bluteooth”, 2 “Android Control”).

    • I would like to try using ISP to reprogram the microcotnroller. Is there any information about which pin has what function in the ISP header? I want to use an Arduino to do the programming but I’m not sure how to connect both. Also, comparing the board of the one I have with the picture here I can see that there are two SMD components missing right in fron of the header pins that seem to be related to it.

  • Any chance on giving us the android app code along with it? I haven’t jumped into bluetooth yet with android dev and could really use a quickstart for it :)

    • http://iteadstudio.com/application-note/make-arduino-talk-with-android-by-bluetooth/

      they have an open source android app very handy

    • It would be great to get the Android app source for this

  • Dam you :-)

    I thought it would be around $80, so more then I would want to pay for my little hobby. Its so cheap I have to add it to my wish list. :-(

  • Hi All, I bought a few of the I-Racers for a Science Olympiad project and wanted to know if any one has hacked the board to be used as a servo controller. The only problem I think I may run into is using 2 phones to control the I-Racer since I will be using 1 phone to control the car and the other controller to control 2 servos. Also is there any way to make the board control more than 2 servo motors? Any help will be helpful.

  • You can make self-driving car with i-Racer and Android phone Video

  • Header to program device is no longer populated! First 4-5 speeds on level ground do not produce movement.

  • I was just wondering with Christmas coming up soon and every thing I’ve never done robotics before and wondering if this was a good starting place are do you think it’s a bit to advanced

  • I really love this little car, but after a couple of months sitting in the box, It wouldn’t recharge. I contacted tech support and they told me to “jump start” it by applying 5v to the battery terminals. I used an old cell phone charger to get the 5v and was able to get it working again. You can view a quick video I recorded of how to do it here. Hope it helps!

  • Could I fit the Mecanum wheels unto the shafts that come with this car?

  • can somebody give me the elf file of the firmware

  • I’ve now bought two of these cars. The second one because the first was missing the USB lead and I couldn’t charge the dead battery.

    From what I’ve gathered (after hours of poking around with a multimeter and unsoldering wires), is the battery won’t charge at all once it’s dead. I can’t find any connection of power coming in to the VCC that the battery is wired up to.

    In the end, I modified the car with a Sparkfun USB LiPoly Charger - Single Cell running the SYS OUT to the car’s main board, and then soldering the lipoly battery to the charging board (pic). Now the thing charges and works again.

    For the record, I tried for a long time the technique of keeping the car on whilst charging the unit, but it didn’t make any difference, the power just didn’t seem to get to the battery. Here’s just an example of the power tests: power from mains to car, power getting to the unused VBAT and finally testing volate to the lipoly connection point - nothing (also tested the underside - same result).

    So, this is a fun car, but be very wary of battery issues.

    • Sorry to hear about the issues you ran into with that! If you do ever have any troubles with one of our products such as missing pieces, please contact techsupport@sparkfun.com and they can get you set up with a replacement.

      • Thanks for the offer, but I’m in the UK and bought the racer from a UK site (in fact twice from different sites in case it was a localised issue - which it wasn’t). I thought it would be useful to share my experience and solution here since there was so much discussion.

  • can it be hacked and work with an arduino and a motor shield?

  • I unfortunately can’t get mine to charge for some reason… Any idea why?

    • yea. I had posted my battery troubles above. Basically if you leave it on it will run the battery all the way down and it wont charge. I had to remove the battery and hook it up to a power supply to get the voltage on it high enough for the usb charger to work. I dont remember the voltage I used. If the battery is a 1S then 3.5 volts from a power supply for 3 minutes is probably enough to get the usb charger to be able to properly charge the battery. It’s not good to run the battery all the way down so now I am sure to turn the unit off when not in use. Sparkfun gave great customer service over this issue as they always have done for me. I just keep coming back :)

      • rperkins: This worked great for me, thanks! I was on my second battery. The first time I thought it was my fault it ran low (turned off my computer while it was charging), but this time it was left on for just a little too long and it wouldn’t take a charge. I’ll have to see if I can revive the first battery as well…I set it aside several months ago.

  • Hi purchased this about 3 days ago……………. i received it yesterday. i was driving it then all of a sudden it stopped. ithought the batery died so i charged it i turned it on than made it go forward. then it just died again. does any1 know the solution to my delema

  • i have two questions about this robot.

    1. are there any unused pins i can use for IO
    2. with wish compiler can i open this project because i get a lot of errors
  • Hello everyone. i was curious if it would be possible to plug a freescale board i have for school into this and use it. or is it only for this particular board?

  • Hello everybody, I purchased the i-Racer a couple of months ago, and it has really been a good experience playing with it so far, as far as the basic apps allow. What I am interested in now is to measure the RSSI on-board? Would anyone know as to whether this is possible? Some pointers on this matter would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

  • We had some fun this Christmas controlling the i-racer with a Raspberry Pi and Makey Makey over Bluetooth.

    I should have some better code for it in the next few days. It’s a great piece of kit.

    http://conoroneill.net/makey-makey-raspberry-pi-iracer-bluetooth-cheese-controlled-car-ccc/

  • Hey, Does anyone else have a problem with the Android app? The MagicCar app crashes on my Nexus 7. It worked on my Nexus 7 with an earlier version of Android. Sparkfun just replaced a bad battery, but I cannot get the app to work….I’ll also ask Tech Support.

    • The App is pretty unreliable. Works ok-ish on my HTC Sensation but does a lot of Force-Closing on an old HTC G1. In both cases, loses the connection very easily and leaves the car’s motors spinning at whatever speed they were set to beforehand.

  • Does anybody have been able to re-program the firmware? I am using Pololu USB Avr Programmer and I have'nt been able to. It can’t read the device signature .

    • Update: At the end I got it! I don’t know the exact reason but it is the programmer. Before I was about to give up I remembered I had an old avrisp MK1 so I decided to give a try (http://www.atmel.com/tools/MATUREAVRISP.aspx) and It worked!!

      I think is a voltage issue of some kind. This is a note from pololu product page: “The programmer is powered by the 5V USB power bus, and it is intended for programming AVRs that are running at close to 5 V (note that the programmer does not deliver power to the target device).”

  • I’m having trouble with the charging cable, namely, that’s it’s not charging the racer. Tried looking for shorts and other problems, but couldn’t get it to work. Has anyone else experienced this?

    • Mine doesnt seem to charge now either. I only raced it a couple times but thought I had checked the charging . The light on the usb plug doesnt come on whether the car is plugged in or not, or whether the car is on or off. I do measure 5v coming out of the usb plug and also on the charging socket ? Gonna see if it charges overnight then contact support.

      It was fun when it worked. My daughter liked it also. Bought it to hack with but havent gotten that far yet. Another person had reported that it was way too sensitive when using the ‘phone tilt’ mode, but it worked fine after getting used to it. Lack of proportional steering is what I miss, but at the price point it sells I am not complaining. Another complaint was the location of the on-off switch, but that has not been an issue and the switch itself is pretty firm.

      Have looked at the source code and it is compiled with imagecraft compiler, which I wasnt familiar with. You can download a demo of the compliler needed. I have checked out the above linked alternate source and am going to try it, but havent gotten that far yet.

      Overall a good value with lots of tinkering ability, but mine is down currently. Sparkfun support has been good in the past and if I need them over this, am confident it will be the same.

      • UPDATE - the Rechargeable Li-Poly Battery is bad. I replaced the battery with a 1S li-po battery out of a syma s107 and the unit runs and it appears to be charging. After a partial rundown and recharge I can see changes on the battery meter led’s. I also tried to charge the original battery after removing it from the car through my li-po charger. It did not work. the battery is completely dead. I connected to the charger before the small safety board in the battery, so I am pretty confident it is the cell itself. I have contacted support and am sure they will rectify the situation. A replacement battery will fix me up.

        UPDATE2- So maybe it wasnt exactly the battery. When the temporary battery I installed ran all the way down the car acted the same way. It was completely dead and wouldnt charge. I left it off for a while then turned it on and it had some residual power. Then I hooked it up to the charger and LEFT THE UNIT TURNED ON. Then it would charge. I had noticed that the battery is soldered to the VCC/GND connections and the BAT/GND are left empty. It is the same way on these pictures.
        http://code.google.com/p/meisjohns-projects/source/browse/trunk/I_Racer/#I_Racer%2FImages I wondered if maybe the battery is soldered up to the wrong location, which is allowing the battery to be drained all the way to 0 volts. It also would explain why it only charges when turned on. I could be mistaken though. I took the original battery that I thought was bad and hooked it up to a 3.7 v dc power source for about 30 seconds. This put enough charge into it so that I could charge it with my RC LI-PO charger. Previously the charger complained that the voltage was too low to allow a charge. I was able to charge it up successfully. Not sure what to tell support when they email me. The thing doesnt charge properly and it appears that the battery could possibly have been soldered to the wrong spot on the pcb ??

        UPDATE3-reinstalled the original battery and it is working. Tried to hook it up to the BAT/GND connections but it wouldnt turn on. So my latest guess is it will charge if you leave it turned on and dont run it all the way down. Trying to run it down now :) After flying heli’s, the battery in this sure lasts a long time :) . Another note: when using the ‘tilt mode’ on my Samsung S3 android phone, after a while the phone must not recognize any activity and goes to sleep? . the car continues to run at whatever setting were active when the phone goes to sleep. ( no failsafe ?) Then have to unlock my phone and then all is well until it times out again. Guessing the app would have to be updated to keep phone from sleeping. I Dont expect an update for the app and havent seen any source for the app, to allow someone with the proper skills could patch it. Still lots of fun and potential for the $$

        • I haven’t gone to great lengths, but yes, it seems to charge the battery only when switched on, and the battery is connected to the point marked VCC on the pcb while VBAT is empty. And I lost the USB cable. So I’m going to get the proper connector to charge it with this Li-ion charger.

    • I had trouble with the car charging as well - though I found it to be the battery, not the charging cable.

      I contacted SparkFun, and they were very quick and friendly about replacing the whole car. Everything works on the new model!

  • Anyone else trying to reprogram this from OSX? I can’t seem to find a replacement for iom168v.h and AVRdef.h used in the attached firmware, and I don’t have a Windows computer available to install Imagecraft just to grab those files.

    • There’s a bit of porting to do to get it compiling with avr-gcc (on OSX). Once I got it compiling, I suspect the timing was still differing from the original firmware, perhaps due to the compiler optimization/flags differences, such that I still did not get a functional car. I ended up re-writing a feature-parity(ish) firmware from scratch using avr-gcc directly - have a look at it on github and reach out there if interested. I did all of it on OSX.

  • Is it possible to set the BT module to “Master mode” like the BlueSMiRF in order to connect a BT game controller that uses SPP interface?

  • Is there a schematic for the board? Would like to know if there are any unused pins.

  • Look im a geek but not a good one could anyone please please please give me a way to control this thing with out a cell phone or computer and exsplain how

    • Hello fellow geek!

      Sorry for the bad news, but since this car is controlled by sending it data bytes, you will need a computer of some sort to send it those bytes, but this could even be a simple microcontroller like an Arduino.

      The command set is pretty simple, see the document at the top of this page. You just need to generate bytes where the low four bits are the speed, and the upper four bits are forward/reverse and turning.

      Since the car communicates via Bluetooth, you’ll need to have a Bluetooth module on your computer. This could be the Bluetooth built into a laptop, but if you’re using an Arduino or other microcontroller, Sparkfun carries parts for that.

      If none of the above makes sense (yet), don’t worry - keep reading and doing projects, and your geek skills will soon grow to the point where this is straightforward. Good luck!

  • Does anyone know if I get the source code for the MagicCar.apk app that came with the device anywhere? I’m mainly looking to do software hacks but my knowledge of android API is limited so having something to go on would be very helpful. Great, thanks, I’m eager to get started.

    • As the datasheet mentions, the MagicCar.apk file belongs to Arexx, so your best bet to get the most up-to-date source files would be to contact them directly.

      • I contacted them and they gave me the source code. You can get it at http://www.otherrealm.org/car/car.php (note, I don’t know their terms of use as most of their documents are in Mandarin. My modifications have a GPL license)

  • Just got my I-Racer this week. They’ve updated the board layout (no version number, but QA date in box is 2012.05.31). (You may want to consider updating the images on the product page?)

    Anyway, the new version has pins A2-A5 broken out. With these pins, you’ve got access to the I2C (TWI) pins, so one could presumably connect another device that supports that protocol (another uC like arduino, OpenServo, various sensors, etc.) This is a very exciting development, indeed!

  • Hello, does anyone have tried to control it from a laptop? my idea is to hack it and add an arduino board and some sensors (incl. GPS). Is there already someone working in something similar?

  • I noticed after my first (fairly mellow) test drive that both front wheel mounts were broken. Since I didn’t check these beforehand, I’m not sure if it arrived busted or a couple knocks into a door frame did it in. I’m guessing the former, as I didn’t beat on it that hard. It looks like I can take it apart and glue the molded plastic pieces back together, so it will live to see another race.

    I wanted to warn all to give it a once over before taking it off the lot, so to speak.

    Also, when you put it in “phone tilt” mode it is ridiculously sensitive and really hard to control in a small-ish space (12x9 office and hallway at work).

  • Is it possible to add an encoder to the dc motor? for more accurate movement.

    • anything is possible, but it might be quite difficult with this one. It would require some heavy modification, but could be done.

  • Instructions say to pair with a fixed code 0000 or 1234 (mine uses 1234). Does bluetooth pairing set up a unique session such that I can have several people racing i-Racers next to each other without conflicts?

    • I THINK each one comes up as a unique ID, so you could use a few at a time.

      • Pretty sure every blue tooth device has a unique identifier like a MAC address for an Ethernet adapter. Otherwise you could pick up phone conversations from others using the same bluetooth device near you.

        • correct. But we did get a batch of bluetooth dongles once that all had the same ID. so it’s possible. but these are all unique.

  • Wow! How can you sell it for only $30? That’s a steal for costumers.

  • I am surprised by the switch by the right back tire. Could this not be moved to a better location? First thing I thought when I saw this was couldn’t dirt and moisture get into the body of the car through this opening? I could see my kid trying to drive this through a mud puddle the first chance he got, drowning the circuit board. Otherwise Cool racer.

  • Could you change the wheels on this car? If so, would ROB-00421 or ROB-00420 fit?

  • OK a real question.

    I see its car not tank steering. I guess its a simple motor not a servo turning the front wheels. So just all the way right and all the way left.

    Could you hack a servo for finer steering control?

    • you are correct on how it steers. You could probably hack a servo in there, but it might take a BIT of work, since there isn’t really a great way to do it with the controller, and of course you’d have to mechanically hack it in as well.

      • Don’t you guys encourage that? Hacking = Good.

        • of course we do! I never said NOT to do it, I just mentioned some problems you might run into. In the video, I even say it’s a hackable platform. I’m all about hacking it, but adding a stepper would take extra hardware. a servo might not…

    • Actually, this may not mean is steers only full left/right, on some models of cars like this, there is a wormdrive connected to the motor that acts as a linear actuator and steers actually pretty good if you use some kind of odometry algorithm

      • It says rack and pinion so I’m assuming the front motor engages a rack gear. Maybe if you added some sort of speed control and feed back, but if you look at the video it looks like left, right with a spring return to center. I even see an adjustment to tweak the straight line tracking.

  • Not bad for $30!

  • Awesome! :D


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