The future of transportation is a big topic around here, as 3D printing, robotics, and virtual reality all play a big part in the vehicles that will eventually be taking us everywhere from the grocery store to Mars. Just about every day, we learn something new about rockets, spaceships, or self-driving cars, and keeping up to date with all of it is electronics company Mouser Electronics. The Texas-based retailer, which sells everything from basic circuit breakers to advanced engineering tools, is very interested in the future of space and Earth-based travel, as evidenced by a series of innovation challenges they recently introduced.
Earlier this year, Mouser launched the Empowering Innovation Together series, a collection of collaborative projects and challenges developed in partnership with engineer (and former Mythbusters co-host) Grant Imahara. July’s challenge focused on outer space: the ISS Design Challenge asked participants to design 3D printable electronic items that could be printed and used by astronauts on the International Space Station. The most recent contest involved autonomous cars, with help from Local Motors.
The competition revolved around Local Motors’ 3D printed Strati, which the company is in the process of turning into a car that can shift between self-driving and human-driven. According to Local Motors, they have the technology mostly worked out, but they wanted to make the experience more fun, so they asked the public to come up with ways to transform the car’s cockpit into an entertaining living space for when it’s in autonomous mode.
“The Local Motors approach to direct digital manufacturing and the ingenuity of our co-creation community means that we have the ability to partner with cutting-edge suppliers like Mouser Electronics to bring innovations to life at unprecedented speeds,” said Local Motors Co-founder and CEO John B. Rogers, Jr. “The Mouser Strati offers a glimpse into the future of autonomous driving right now.”
The challenge received several cool and creative entries, but one stood out above the rest. This week, Finn Yonkers of Rhode Island was named the challenge winner for his Fly-Mode design, which involves augmented reality screens and a drone launch pad. A joystick-controlled drone can be launched from the pad at the back of the Strati when it’s in autonomous mode. At the same time, panoramic screens deploy inside the car, so that the driver can watch the footage that the drone’s camera collects as it soars over the landscape. The design, according to Yonkers, has a lot of potential for other augmented reality applications as well.
“Local Motors already had most of the technology to make the autonomous vehicle figured out. This project was about taking it to the next level,” said Imahara. “To do this we called on the imaginations of engineers all across the world. Mouser’s Empowering Innovation Together™ program and vast array of parts enabled this, so it was a great partnership to bring our shared vision to life.”
Imahara, along with engineers from Local Motors, will now help build the car alongside Yonkers, who will be flown out to the company’s Phoenix headquarters. The process will be documented through a series of videos on Mouser Electronics’ website (you can see the introductory video below):
“At Mouser, we love to help engineers push the boundaries of innovation. It’s not just fun — it’s rewarding. By increasing innovation and the speed of technology, we can all do more to help humanity and our world,” said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics. “We look forward to unveiling the finished product soon. Stay tuned!”