Eventually the rover will have a spinning blade of death on it. Before we get to that point we need to include some safety mechanisms. Let’s be real: these features aren’t just for innocent bystanders. You’re the one tinkering with this thing. Do yourself a favor and invest in some simple safety features. They don’t have to be expensive or complicated.
The goal of a safety system is to ensure that at all times the rover is in a safe state. What is a safe state, you ask? Well, that depends. Say the spinning blade of death is barreling toward a small kitten. A safe state would be one in which it stops barreling toward that kitten. So tell the motors to stop spinning, right?
Well, maybe. But what if the rover is on an incline, and could start rolling backward? That’s certainly not safe. Well, then put the brakes on, you may say. Sure, that might work. But what if you already hit the kitten and the poor thing is stuck under the spinning blade of death already? Now what?
The above scenario may seem preposterous, and it is unlikely. But it illustrates an important point: you need to be proactive about identifying safety risks.
Safety system design is a whole discipline in itself, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: a safe state is one in which the spinning blade of death stops spinning. So let’s add a simple emergency stop switch to shut off the spinning blade of death.
Right now our rover isn’t equipped with such a feature, but we can wire it into the drive motors so that when you hit the emergency stop switch, the rover stops moving. Down the road we’ll also wire it into the motor powering the mower blade.
So what goes into an E-Stop?
I don’t need an emergency stop switch. I have an on off switch and I’m smart enough to know how to use it.
-Me, before the rover slams into my shin
For an emergency stop switch to do any good, it needs to be identifiable. Think you’re on off switch is good enough? It may be for you, but can a person who has never seen your rover before identify it? Possibly, but we can’t assume that. Our emergency stop switch needs to be a big red button with a giant label by it saying Emergency Shut Off Switch or something of that nature. This way your grandma could easily figure out that this button will turn off the spinning blade of death.
Your E-stop also needs to be accessible. This means that it can be easily pressed by anyone. It’s not on the back side of your rover near the bottom. It’s front and center, located in an area where a person could quickly press the button if your rover were coming right at them. Set it at a height that your 4 year old niece could reach if your rover is of any significant size. What good is an E-stop if it can’t be reached?
Related to making your E-stop accessible, be sure to put it in a safe location. I know, that sounds awfully obvious, but be cognizant of what’s around your button. Is there a hot surface near it? Bad place for your E-stop. Is it near your spinning wheels? Also a bad place. Use common sense.
Lastly, your E-stop should put the rover into a safe state. What that looks like depends uniquely on your situation. In this case, it means the motors are de-energized.
Next time I’ll show what this kind of system looks like for the rover V2.