A car’s electrical system almost entirely determines the personality of the vehicle. It handles everything from cruise control behavior, to pedal response, to user interface, to how fast the car accelerates.
In the past, Stanford cars have had fairly minimal electrical systems – purchased battery protection systems, limited telemetry, discrete motor control. These were simple to build and helped limit the possibilities for serious failures for a team with a lot of mechanical talent but very little electrical know-how.
These days the tables have turned. Changes in recruiting yield have left the Stanford team with strong electronics and software teams that can handle almost any design challenge. Our battery protection system is incredibly clean, elegant, and highly functional. The telemetry system has great range, low power consumption, and lets our chase vehicle behave as if it were part of the car. We can text message the driver on a gorgeous AMOLED display, control the MPPTs from the battery pack, measure the solar array’s performance without lifting a finger, and so on.
Electrical team members also get to have the most fun tweaking the behavior of the car after the race is done. Voice over telemetry? KITT mode? Sound effects? If you’ve got the time, the system has the flexibility to let you do just about anything.