The mechanical elements of Sycophant were put together very rapidly and I learned much since then. I walked into a Radio Shack and picked up the first R/C car I could find. The active IR sensors had limited range, and I was operating them on their "hairy edge" where they would get many false alarms.
Sycophant 2 will be based on a more powerful 9.6V R/C car chassis with a much lower center of gravity. I will be using Maxbotix "quiet" ultasonic proximity sensors, which have a longer range and a slightly wider cone of detection than active IR proximity sensors.
Because I'm lazy, instead of spending sleepless nights trying to get PIC assembly code to work, I am pulling out my old RVHE boards, which are apparently no longer made. The RVHE boards run on BASIC, interactively programmed over a serial port. The programming should go very quickly.