AVC 2016 Rules

The 2016 Autonomous Vehicle Competition has been broken into four competition categories: Autonomous Power Racing Series (A+PRS), Power Racing Series (PRS), Classic Autonomous Vehicle Competition (AVC), and Combat Bots. Information about each event plus information regarding rules, prizes, course layouts and more can be found below.


General Course Layout

Two courses and the Combat Bots arena will be setup in SparkFun’s front parking lot. The large square will be setup for the larger PRS and A+PRS vehicles ringed with water-filled barriers. The small square will be for the enclosed Combat Bots arena. The not-square will be setup for the smaller Classic AVC vehicle course and ringed with hay bales.

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Layout for AVC + PRS 2016: This is the tentative layout for A+PRS course, classic AVC course and the Combat Bots arena.


Autonomous Power Racing Series Rules

The following rules are a subset of the official PRS rules and only apply to autonomous competitors. For the complete list of rules, click the link below.

Official PRS Rules

There will be two race courses at this year’s AVC: one for traditional AVC vehicles (under 40 pounds) and one for PRS-sized vehicles. We’ll use the PRS course for both an official PRS race with real human drivers and an autonomous A+PRS race. You can enter either race or both!

Vehicle Design

All Autonomous PRS vehicles must be capable of carrying a passenger the size of a child, weighing at least 20lbs. You may carry a human, but, if you choose not to, you will be given a thing to carry weighing roughly 20lbs. This is in addition to any equipment required to run the vehicle, such as computers and batteries. All entries must look like an actual child’s ride-on toy, or else be otherwise so awesome that we don’t care (see PRS rule 7.2.3). The vehicle may not exceed 62-inches long by 36-inches wide. If carrying a passenger, seat height must be at or above the maximum vehicle axle height. Overall height is restricted to 72 inches, including the height of the driver while in the seated position.

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Note: This vehicle is from previous years and is not carrying the required payload.

Passenger

Any human passenger must be 18 years of age or older. No you may not put your child or anyone else’s child in the car. Yes I know we said 20lbs. No you may not use your dog. Ok: Either a valid team member (according to PRS rules) must ride in the car or the team will be provided a 20lbs dead weight by the judges.

Computing and Autonomy

Vehicles must be fully autonomous and self-contained. No transmitters or communication beacons (other than GPS) of any kind are allowed. Everything necessary for the vehicle’s navigation/processing/sensing must be attached and part of the vehicle itself.

The only allowed exception is the requirement for a remote kill switch as described in the Stop Switch section. A remote ‘go’ button is optional and an allowed exception. These exceptions must be demonstrated during the Tech Inspection.

Safety

Vehicles must be battery powered, with a maximum system voltage of 48V (rated battery voltage) and total motor electrical power of 1440W. Power will be limited by installation of a fuse of appropriate rating. See Section 2.7.1 of the official PRS rules for officially sanctioned part numbers. Higher 48V systems must use the 30A fuse part # F4346-ND (works with fuse holder part # F6110-ND). Computer and sensor systems are not included in this power limit and may bypass the fuse.

Each car must have an emergency disconnect switch (the big red button) that removes all power from the main power system (i.e. the batteries that supply power to the drive motor) at a point in the circuit as close as practical to the power supply. This switch must be rated for a breaking current of at least 50 percent greater than the power limiting fuse rating.

Stop Switch (a.k.a. Remote Kill Switch)

Each autonomous vehicle must be equipped with a remote/wireless stop switch that removes power from the motor and can bring the vehicle to a stop within 18-ish feet once activated. Motor braking is allowed in order to meet the required stopping distance, however, this must be actuated automatically and passively when remote stop is actuated. This system must be designed in a robust manner such that it can bring the vehicle to a stop in any foreseeable failure. At a minimum, the stop switch must be capable of bringing the vehicle to a stop in the following scenarios:

Remote Manual Stop:

  • Loss of control/loss of on-board computer
  • Motor controller failure (e.g. motor controller stuck on)

Automatic Stop:

  • Loss of remote signal/radio interference
  • Loss of on-board battery (failsafe in case of power failure)

Check out our tutorial highlighting how to make your own remote kill switch.

Scoring

Moxie points awarded as specified in the official PRS rules. Points and pole positions will be awarded for fastest time. As for distance points: During the qualifying lap, 25 points will be awarded for crossing certain marks on the course.

For timing, the PRS course uses a transponder attached to your vehicle that is sensed by an overhead bridge. (PRS will supply the transponder for a $20 rental fee.) After you hit your start button, your official course time will be from the moment you pass the starting line to the moment you cross it again at the end of the race. If your autonomous vehicle doesn’t make it all the way around the course, we’ll still give you points for passing various checkpoints.

Budget Limit

The $500 budget limit applies to the chassis per the PRS rules (1.4) (frame, wheels, motor, motor controller, etc.). The is no cap to the amount spent on additional mechatronics and electronics to make the vehicle autonomous. The “no cap” applies to things like steering control, throttle control, computation and additional sensing.

Course Layout

The course will be a uniform 18-feet wide, and in true Colorado fashion, will be lined with hay bales (which are 3' long and 18" high). Our Mad Mechanical Engineer Evan recently tested out some of our distance sensors against haybales, so check out his findings. And to help out those of you with vision systems, we’re going to add optical targets to each of the hay bales: red plastic plates on the left side of the course, and green plates on the right. High-tech all the way, baby.

Unlike traditional AVC, the PRS course will not have obstacles, hammers, saws or animatronic pirates; just a twisty ribbon of asphalt between you and eternal glory. (Too much?)

For video documentation of the course and imagery of the obstacles, take a look at our PRS & A+PRS Course Preview Blog Post or watch the video below.

Barriers

The PRS and A+PRS races will be run on a course with hay bales for reasons related to autonomous navigation. The dimensions of the hay bales will be 36'L x “18"H x 15"W.

Tech Inspection

Each team will be expected to demonstrate the following:

  • Kill switch
  • Remote kill switch (show us the relay is clicking)
  • Battery voltage demonstration
  • Battery chemistry ok’d (mostly honor system)
  • Size limit
  • Budget limit

Transponder

Upon successful tech inspection teams will be issued a transponder. The IR transponder is used to record each vehicle’s lap time. It uses a standard 3-pin servo connector, requires 5V@15mA and must to be mounted to the top of a vehicle. They cost $20 to rent for the event so have a Jackson ready on Saturday morning. See section 2.D of the PRS rules for more details.

Progress Verification

All autonomous vehicles in this year’s event must provide proof of progress to SparkFun to confirm entry into the competition. Progress Verification will happen in two phases.

August 25th: Video demonstration of electronic control of steering and throttle.

September 9: Video demonstration of autonomous 90 degree turn.

Send your videos to avc@sparkfun.com!


Power Racing Series Rules

The classic Power Racing Series (PRS) is just like autonomous version, only these vehicles will be driven by humans. The main differences between the two being the payload (human for PRS, 20lb+ weight for A+PRS) and the kill switch location (on-board kill switch for PRS, remote kill switch for A+PRS). All other rules are the same for both races. Those rules can again be found using the link below. The above information regarding A+PRS is applicable to those wishing to participate in the classic PRS as well.

Official PRS Rules


We will be registering PRS competitors through the same process as A+PRS competitors.


Classic AVC Rules

Classic AVC chassis

If you’ve got a chassis from previous AVC competitions and want to race on the new course, this category is for you. The same A+PRS rules apply to the Classic AVC Category with the following exceptions:

  • Dead weight requirement goes away
  • Size requirement goes away
  • Voltage limit requirement goes away
  • Budget limit for chassis goes away (who spends $500 on an R/C car?)
  • A remote kill switch is encouraged but not required
  • Any vehicle over 40lbs is not allowed (and you should really put on your big kid pants and race in the A+PRS). Every vehicle over 25lbs must include a kill switch.

Course Layout

The Classic AVC course shape will be similar to the PRS course in that it will be squiggly. The track will be 10 feet wide, with hay bales along the sides. These are just hay; they’re not covered with anything. To start the race, each entrant gets 300 points, and one point will be deducted for every second that you’re navigating the course. Those deductions stop as soon as your vehicle crosses the finish line, and you can earn more points by tackling some of the obstacles along the way.

From the starting line, your vehicle will navigate a very nice and easy, 120-foot straightaway to the first right turn, followed by another 35-foot straightaway to the second right turn. Following that turn, you’ll encounter a 58-foot section with four red barrel obstacles. You can dodge them or hit them (they may or may not be easily movable), it’s up to you, but you don’t get any extra points for navigating the barrels.

But that’s a long way around there, isn’t it? That’s gonna eat some time. So maybe you want to take the optional dirt section, huh? About 30 feet from the start line, there’s a right turn onto a 7-foot-wide section of track that’s going to be covered with dirt, maybe some rocks, skulls, etc. Definitely off-road in nature. Taking this section will shave off some time if your ‘bot can hang, as it will lead you to the end of the barrel section, avoiding them entirely. It will also land you 50 extra points.

Regardless of which of those two paths you choose, your ‘bot now sits at a four-way intersection. From the barrel-straight, the easy path is to your left (or straight from the dirt section) to another 58-foot straightaway. There will be a green hoop placed in this section, and going through the hoop will net you another 10 points. At the end of that section is a right turn onto a 67-foot straightaway with no other obstacles, followed by another right turn and another 58-foot straightaway. On this section, there will be a ramp (more of a jump) that will net you 10 points if you get over it.

But again, that’s a long way around and it’s going to eat your time. So if you want to save some time, instead of taking the left turn from the barrel-straight, you can go straight (or a right turn from the dirt section). This will lead down a straight that ends with the Discombobulator.

If you don’t remember this from last year, it’s a giant gas-powered turntable that’s specifically designed to lay waste to your navigation algorithms. Taking this path will relieve you from taking the three other sections, but it can send your ‘bot flying. And if you choose to jump the Discombobulator, beware: If you jump too far, you can end up in the “Ball Pit of Despair.” This is essentially a low-edge kiddie pool filled with those big plastic balls you see at fast food chain play areas – the ones that always smell sorta funny (hey, we were going to use acetone to begin with). Landing in the Ball Pit of Despair will end your run. If you make it past the Discombobulator, you’ll get 50 more points. But just to show you that we’re nice guys, we’ll give you 10 points just for getting up the Discombobulator ramp. Who loves ya? We do.

Assuming you successfully navigate the Discombobulator, hang a right turn (or just straight from the easy path) into the last “hard” section of track. You’ll first take a right turn, then a hairpin to the left, followed by another hairpin to the right. That leads you to the final, 25-foot path to the finish. Yay! You did it!

For video documentation of the course and imagery of the obstacles, take a look at our AVC Course Preview Blog Post or watch the video below.

Weight Classes

This year for AVC we are organizing competing bots into weight classes to ensure (among other things) no bots are smashed on the course! Prizes will be awarded according to weight class as well.

Lightweight = <10 lbs Welterweight = <25 lbs Heavyweight = <40 lbs

Barriers

The Classic AVC races will be run on a course with smaller, lighter weight barriers. These will be hay bales 36"L x 18"H x15"W.

GPS Ruling

We’re going to reinstate the no-GPS Bonus Rule. If you manage to navigate this track without the aid of GPS, we will give you an additional 150 points! The course is arguably harder this year than in the past, so we expect it’s going to take some real chops to pull this off without GPS (or with, for that matter). So if you’re going to try to make this happen, you deserve a little extra pad in the score.

Second, we’ve got a standing rule that says you can’t set up local beacons to assist in your navigation. But then there’s RTK GPS. D'oh! What are we going to say to that? “You can use GPS, just not really good GPS, cuz we dont like that one.”

No, we’re not going to say that. Therefore, the rule that previously said, “no transmitters or communication beacons (other than GPS) of any kind are allowed,” shall have the addendum, “except for multi-receiver GPS systems, provided their frequencies don’t interfere with any remote kill systems.” In other words, you still can’t set up local beacons… except for the ones that come with something like an RTK GPS system. That one’s OK, provided it doesn’t mess with the remote kill switches that our entrants have set up. As long as the beacons are operating on ISM bands (as the examples we’ve seen do), we expect everything should be good to go. Your friendly SFE track judges will do some verification on race day.

Ramps and Obstacles

Because of their lighter weight we will allow Classic AVCs to momentarily leave the ground. Shortcut ramps will be a thing but are still to be determined.

Progress Verification

All autonomous vehicles in this year’s event must provide proof of progress to SparkFun to confirm entry into the competition. Progress Verification will happen in two phases.

August 25th: Video demonstration of electronic control of steering and throttle.

September 9: Video demonstration of autonomous 90 degree turn.

Send your videos to avc@sparkfun.com!


Combat Bots

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The battle for fighting robot dominance was such a hit last year that we’re bringing it back in 2016! That’s right, bring your one-pounds or three-pound fighting robots (antweight and beetleweight) for a fight to the death (or at least until time runs out). To keep things standard, we are continuing to follow the rules set forth by the SPARC organization.

Rules and Robot Builder’s Forums

  • Original SPARC rules – These are the unmodified rules from SPARC.
  • AVC-specific rules and errata – The SparkFun modifications of the rules, under “Promotions and Competitions”
  • sparc.tools – This is a good getting started place; visit their forums to see what other robot builders around the world are doing.

Combat Bot Arena Preview

If you’re into robot combat, here’s the information you’ve been waiting for. Our arena is up and operational, the rules have solidified and we’re getting ready for your arrival.

More information about the Combat Bots and for suggestions for bot building supplies can be found in this blog post.


Tentative PRS & A+PRS Schedule for September 17, 2016


Friday:

Optional Calibration Day. This is a free-for-all. Contestants will be allowed onto the track but will not be guaranteed a clear track. Watch your ankles. Please note that the lighting and GPS satellites will vary from day to day. It’s up to you to build your algorithms accordingly.

Saturday (Race Day):

Course 1: PRS and A+PRS Vehicles

7 A.M. - Teams get in, register and settle into their areas. Tech inspections; transponders are issued if a team passes tech inspection.

9 A.M. - A+PRS Calibration Lap: Each A+PRS contestant will line up (first come/first serve) and will be given five minutes of a clear track to calibrate their vehicle, then they must exit the track.

10 A.M. - PRS Qualifying Lap: Flying lap then stop 15 feet from finish line to demonstrate brakes.

11 A.M. - A+PRS Qualifying Lap: Each A+PRS contestant will line up (first come/first serve) and will be given two chances to complete a single lap. You must use your remote kill switch to stop the vehicle within 18-ish feet of the finish line. Your finish time or incremental completed distance gets your pole position for the one-lap race. We’re allotting one hour to get everyone through.

12 P.M. - A+PRS Group Start, Single Lap Race: Open to everyone, includes moxie performances (like parading the horses). Pole positions determined by qualifying lap. Dead cars are left on course. There will be a five-minute max time.

1 P.M. - PRS Sprint race: 15-30 lap race

2 P.M. - A+PRS Mayhem Race: Full field, three to five laps. No humans are allowed onto the track. In general dead cars will be left on the track. The referees will call yellow flag/car stops when needed to remove disabled cars that are blocking the race. If your car is removed from the track it cannot re-enter. Max time of 30 minutes.

3 P.M. - PRS Sprint race: 15-30 lap race

4 P.M. - Man vs. Machine: The huge experiment. Manned power wheels will be raced against autonomous power wheels. Full field of cars. A+PRS vehicles get a 30-second head start. Humans start 30 seconds later.

5 P.M. - Awards; event closes

Course 2: Classic AVC Vehicles

7 A.M. - Teams get in, register and settle into their areas. Safety inspections.

9 A.M. to 4 P.M. - Heats throughout the day

5 P.M. - Awards; event closes


Prizes

CLASSIC AVC:

GRAND PRIZE - $750 in all three weight classes

SECOND PLACE - $200 in all three weight classes

THIRD PLACE - $100 in all three weight classes

PRS:

GRAND PRIZE - $750

SECOND PLACE - $200

THIRD PLACE - $100

A+PRS:

GRAND PRIZE - $750

SECOND PLACE - $200

THIRD PLACE - $100

COMBAT BOTS:

GRAND PRIZE - $750 for beetleweight and antweight

SECOND PLACE - $200 for beetleweight and antweight

THIRD PLACE - $100 for beetleweight and antweight

Student Prizes

Any vehicle that is 80 percent designed and built by students (high school or younger) will be considered a student team. Three cash prizes will be awarded in all four categories: AVC, A+PRS, PRS, and combat robots.

CLASSIC AVC:

GRAND PRIZE - $250 in all three weight classes

SECOND PLACE - $100 in all three weight classes

THIRD PLACE - $100 in SFE product in all three weight classes

PRS:

GRAND PRIZE - $750

SECOND PLACE - $100

THIRD PLACE - $100 in SFE product

A+PRS:

GRAND PRIZE - $750

SECOND PLACE - $100

THIRD PLACE - $100 in SFE product

COMBAT BOTS:

GRAND PRIZE - $750 for beetleweight and antweight

SECOND PLACE - $100 for beetleweight and antweight

THIRD PLACE - $100 in SFE product for beetleweight and antweight


Questions about the rules? Email avc@sparkfun.com!