Animated turn signals add a little bit of Cylon to your automobile

[StarfireMX] churned out a fantastic turn signal replacement for his Mustang. When he switches on his blinker, a chasing pattern of amber LEDs is shown on the front corner of his car. Pretty cool, and as far as we can tell this is still street legal. But once he gets onto private property [StarfireMX] can have a little bit more fun with the replacements. The LEDs are actually fully addressable RGB modules. They can display a variety of colors and patterns, with wireless control from a touch-screen unit he also built.

Both the turn signal unit, and the remote controls are Arduino driven with XBee modules for wireless communications. Pop the hood and you’ll find even more blinky lights to accent the engine, which are also tweaked using the remote control.

Don’t miss the demonstration video after the break. Near the end of the clip you can see how the controller is mounted with heavy-duty Velcro behind the grill. Inside the project box there’s a voltage regulator which drops the 12V down to 5V and can put out a whopping four amps to make sure the LEDs have plenty of current.

[Thanks Rudy]

Comments

  1. djneo says:

    Awesome, but is it legal ?

    • Alex says:

      The amber animations ought to be legal, but blue and red lights are for police and emergency vehicles only.

      • Kal says:

        Sorry but you can have blue white or red on your car as long as its a solid color and is not flashing or strobing, there is nothing illegal about it. I have been ticketed many many times for my old blue and my now current red underglow just to go to court and win every single time. 30/30
        Cops will tell you whatever they have to to get your money.

    • CyberNixon says:

      In Texas, you’re not allowed to emit red light forwards, or blue light rearwards.

      Check your local laws.

  2. Microguy says:

    The article said they thought it was street legal. As long as it follows a few rules, it’s legal.

    On private property, you can do what you want. And, that means most parking lots.
    Cruise the mall? Private property.
    Home Depot? Target? WalMart? Private property.
    And most of the roads leading through those parking lots of shopping centers are private property also.
    That also means…. stop signs are “suggestions”. (the state can’t enforce their traffic laws on private property in most cases).
    Of course, the cops will try to convince you otherwise. AKA bluffing.
    (see the size of that stop sign? (the small ones). Yep, they’re not “legal size”. So you could get out of a ticket just from that alone. Already been done. Guy got out of a ticket, because even the state regulated signs were not of the exact size)

    So….. Back on topic….

    Pretty nice set up. I’ve always kinda wanted to do something similar to the brake lights. Something more eye catching, and relitive to what you’re actually doing.

    Like a quick, bright flash at first, then faster blinking depending on how fast you’re stopping. Maybe if you just tapped the brake pedal, it would just sort of slowly brighten up some.

    Nice job, looks well done.

    • B says:

      “That also means…. stop signs are “suggestions”. (the state can’t enforce their traffic laws on private property in most cases).”

      HA HA HA…no. Police don’t even need the consent of the property owner. If they see a crime (or a civil violation) they can enter private property and enforce the law. Ask anyone who has received a ticket in a “private” parking lot doing donuts. Ask anyone who has received a noise complaint for partying in their apartment too loudly.

      Even if they did need the consent of the property owner: almost any store is going to happily allow police to come onto the property.

      Now, as to the issue of whether those turn signals are road-legal: the answer is “no”, because they’re not DOT-approved. They may meet requirements in some specific states – but by and large, unless there’s a DOT marking on the lens, they’re not road legal.

      • Aikon says:

        You missed the point; yes, police can enforce laws on private property, however traffic laws do not apply on private property, so the police have nothing to enforce.

      • phnx says:

        I can’t tell from the video, but something to keep in mind is that the DOT restrictions apply to the LENSES. I think stock mustang lenses are yellow, but if he bought some clear aftermarket lenses then he should still be legal. The law applies to visibility and ability (running, turn, brake… reverse on the back…) The law doesn’t really much care about the illumination SOURCE.

        So long as the there is light coming out and that light is the right color at the right time things should be fine.

    • that1guy says:

      That’s such a load of crap. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the “mall stop signs are suggestions” cop out and it won’t be the last. How bout just consider the fact that those stop signs are put there for the safety of you and others? Stop trying to find loopholes and ways around the law. And yes, a cop will pull you over and give you a ticket if they catch you running those stop signs, regardless of whether or not you can weasel your way out of it at a later date.

      • Thatother1guy says:

        Actually, it’s not crap. Take it from someone that spent a summer with the state road and put up signs- Laws determine the size signs must be based on the speed limit, number of lanes, etc. The “little” stop/speed limit signs are placed by owners of the stores. Sings the incorrect size for the road they’re on might as well not exist when it comes to tickets.

        If a cop is going to try to weasel his way around these laws to give me a $160 ticket while he gets payed to drink coffee and drive around all day you better believe I will get out of it at a later date.

        Most places that use the little stop signs (malls, hospitals…) have security that issues tickets not actual police.

      • phnx says:

        It’s true that Private Property traffic signs are not in an officer’s ‘jurisdiction’. However- a property owner (or Wal-Mart Manager) is almost certain to prosecute if the officer (or city) asks. If you or someone you know owns the parking lot then you should be pretty safe so long as no one dies.

        If you own the parking lot you are legally allowed to put up all the traffic signs you want with the sole purpose of violating every one of them if that’s what you want to do with your afternoon.

        If you’re rocketing through Target, blasting past signs you’re gonna get someone killed and will eventually end up in prison where you belong… …Regardless of how the property owner wants to handle it.

      • George Graves says:

        Remind me never to drive with you. ;)

      • Gene says:

        “However- a property owner (or Wal-Mart Manager) is almost certain to prosecute if the officer (or city) asks.”

        Prosecute what? The most a property owner can do if you don’t follow their rules is to ask you to leave the property and ban you from coming back. If you refuse /that/ then the police can nab you for trespassing. But that’s it.

    • cde says:

      In NJ, signs on private property, that match public sign requirements, can be enforced by the police.
      39:4-120.9. Drivers’ obedience
      5. The driver of a motor vehicle shall observe and obey an official traffic control device erected at a public-private intersection in the same manner as those erected at any other intersection.

      The 39:4-120 section describes it all.

      • kelvin says:

        ha, maybe the cop can’t legally bust you, but he can sure make your life hardwork if you are acting like a knob. i’m sure he definitely will not take your reg number and then follow you till you do do something wrong!!

        i would if some punk kid who “knows the law” was opposing me.

        the ford mustang cars had sequential lighting and i “believe” that as long as for instance, when braking, one main section stays lit whilst other parts are animating, or when turning the timing stays the same, but the animation is in addition (and that the colours aren’t altered) then there is no issue (even in the uk)

        to drive and use the blue flashing at any time, on any land, and getting caught, will maybe land you in court, with an order to remove them. there’s legal, and then there’s what a magistrate believes is correct conduct.

      • Joelman says:

        “public-private intersections” are intersections where a public and private road meet. So no, it’s not saying they can enforce traffic laws on private property.

  3. NicodemusBC says:

    Legal sure as long as it isn’t on public property or where it can influence the public.

    I say influence the public, because if you having flashing blue lights on a vehicle it can be considered as “impersonating a police officer”. So it’s one of those as long as you don’t act stupid with it you won’t get in trouble.

  4. Ryan says:

    I’m quite certain that the factory-installed blinkers on the rear do this.

    Pretty nifty to get them matching now :)

  5. Thopter says:

    I have always felt brake signals could be improved by having a kind of dual-sweep from the outside to the inside across the entire rear of the car. The more pressure applied to the brake pedal means more lights illuminated towards the middle of the signal area, so that a driver behind you could see how hard you’re hitting your brakes and react accordingly.

    • Haku says:

      I like that idea also, but there’s a practicality issue that would be very difficult to overcome; how good your brakes are.

      If you have extremely good brakes and just lightly tapping them can slow you down quickly then the brake lights wouldn’t be lit up as much as a car with bad brakes who put their foot down enough to brake at the same speed.

      The blanket “turn the lights on whenever the brake pedal is pressed” method tells the driver behind that the car is braking but the driver themselves have to work out by how much, becomming reliant on how many LEDs are lit up would mess with drivers ability to judge braking speed as not all cars brake lights would light up in equal amounts to how hard the car is braking.

      • Joseph says:

        What about maybe accelerometer-controlled lights? That would be fairly consistant.

      • RunnerPack says:

        All you have to do is make it depend on the actual deceleration force using an accelerometer. The brake pedal still has a simple switch to turn on the light, and then the light does the magic by itself.

        You’re right about the standardization issue, though. If a car does something “weird” it can confuse the driver behind, and that’s not a good thing.

        Personally, I’ve always wanted to see the lights on the back show the state of the car even when not slowing down. Maybe add green lights that get brighter as you accelerate and turn off when your speed is steady, and likewise with red lights for deceleration (although you wouldn’t want them to go out when you came to a stop, so they could serve as brake lights). Maybe even add a green-amber-red progression in there… Of course, the tail lights would mess this system up, but I’m just thinking out loud, anyway :P

    • RunnerPack says:

      Actually, it should “grow” from the center to the sides. They’ve actually done something similar on city buses; it stimulates the perspective (i.e. “things get bigger as they get closer”) recognition built into the visual system, and has been shown to decrease response times.

    • N0LKK says:

      Respectfully I think that would fall into the too much information category, or at least information that a following driver couldn’t use easily. category.

      • maloushe says:

        BMW have been doing something similar for a while now, called “Brake Force Display”:

        “Brake Force Display provides an additional lighting area and/or brighter illumination under heavy braking or any time the ABS goes into action. This signals to following motorists that the vehicle is braking hard. The functionality of Brake Force Display differs from model to model.

        Benefits
        The larger, brighter signal of the brake lights conveys the information that drivers behind need to gauge the urgency of their own braking manoeuvres and to react more quickly.”

        http://www.bmw.co.uk/bmwuk/bmwcorporate/sales/responsible/active_safety/0,,1212___,00.html?selPage=4

  6. Juan says:

    This is the first time I have commented on something on this site, and it is because this is truly awesome, amazing work there.

  7. mIK says:

    This has been going on forever. Here’s an Altima I did for my best friend without any logic or solid state ICs at all. ;)

    Full on for the daytime so it’s easier to see (I hate red tail light lenses) and alternating when the headlights are on.

    Cheers.

  8. GZ says:

    It’s been shown that “static” break lights that are simply on or off are easy for a driver delay noticing because they do not see the transition. I would love to see animated break lights that would help drivers attention. Sorry, don’t remember the study. They tested by showing people 2 pictures with a minor difference in it. When shown alternating the change was readily seen, but when they inserted a momentary black out between them, people took longer or could not see the difference.

  9. Rob says:

    With the controller in the engine bay, has their been any trouble with heat and cold, weather, water, etc.?

  10. b1r6m4n says:

    You guys are getting it all wrong. Amber is used during normal driving on public roads. This is legal.

    When on private property the traffic rules don’t apply.

  11. charliex says:

    Not legal, not DOT approved, it is that simple. whether or not you get busted for it, different story.

    Private property in the eyes of traffic laws generally excludes anywhere that the public has access too, ie a walmart car park, try driving drunk in it if you think otherwise.

    • Spork says:

      Seriously? DOT has not jurisdiction over my blinkers.

      CA civil code:

      25251.
      (a) Flashing lights are permitted on vehicles as follows:
      (1) To indicate an intention to turn or move to the right or left upon a roadway, turn signal lamps and turn signal exterior pilot indicator lamps and side lamps permitted under Section 25106 may be flashed on the side of a vehicle toward which the turn or movement is to be made.

      25106.
      (a) Any motor vehicle may be equipped with lighted white or amber cowl or fender lamps on the front. Any vehicle may be equipped with not more than one amber side lamp on each side near the front, nor more than one red side lamp on each side near the rear. The light source of each such lamp shall not exceed four standard candlepower.
      (b) Lamps meeting requirements established by the department for side-marker or combination clearance and side-marker lamps may be installed on the sides of vehicles at any location, but any lamp installed within 24 inches of the rear of the vehicle shall be red, and any lamp installed at any other location shall be amber.

      24953.
      (a) Any turn signal system used to give a signal of intention to turn right or left shall project a flashing white or amber light visible to the front and a flashing red or amber light visible to the rear.

    • phnx says:

      DOT applies to the lenses, not the illumination source. You are legally allowed to modify your car with new technology so long as the original function(s) is still served.

      Private Property is Private Property. Your example is only valid because most businesses will gladly cooperate with the police. If the police ask Wal-Mart to prosecute and Wal-Mart says ‘No.’ then guess what happens next time Wal-Mart has a shoplifter… yeah… the police will come…. In an hour. Or two.

      • charliex says:

        the law does apply to the bulbs, its sometimes why you can’t use a clear lense DOT with a red light for stop lights etc, unless the lamp itself is dot too, the fvmss had said they hadn’t found a red bulb that would pass (for brake lights)

        http://candlepowerinc.com/pdfs/DOT_Legal.pdf

        also lookup FMVSS 108
        SAE J1383 which covers the bulb

        testing procedure for FMVSS 108 for lense, bulb, holder etc

        http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/TP-108-13.pdf

      • dan says:

        Be aware in the UK regulations apply to illumination source as well as lenses.

        Which is why lots of LED cluster bulbs, whilst fitting the same socket as a regular light bulb are marked not for highway use, or for show use only.

        If they are too bright/too dim/too narrow viewing angle etc then they aren’t legal.

  12. Will says:

    the rainbow was fitting seeing how it’s a Ford…

    • biozz says:

      +1

    • ELduderino says:

      and I’m sure you drive some piece of crap rice burner or Prius right? At least Ford knows how to build a vehicle \

      • Analog says:

        @ELduderino is that why a year after getting rid of my last ford I got a recall notice telling me it could catch fire or explode at any time whether in operation or not? Knowing how to build a vehicle and knowing how to build a vehicle right are two different things; So kindly keep your silly ‘company x’ is better than ‘company y and z’ bullcrap to yourself and enjoy the article. Everyone has different experiences with different brands. It’s called personal preference.

        @Rveryone else, Legal or not- it’s for car shows- So it matters about as much as the vows at a celebrity wedding. What you’ve essentially done here is go to an all you can eat buffet with a bus load of food critics and spend the entire time discussing the size of the spoons and how appropriate they are or are not rather than the quality of the food.

        @StarFireMX Nice job man, while the signals are the real show here the leds over the engine are quite a nice touch as well. I’m sure they’re quite the head-turner at shows. Both have a finished look to them and are well implemented.

        @HaD so much for cracking down on this stupidity eh? =/ Every thread is still

        I love HaD for the content, but honestly at this point comments on all threads should be disabled.

  13. biozz says:

    you cant have ANY lights on your vehicle that have the ability to flash from red to blue and its just that simple

    that mustang will soon be the police departments new drug car XD

  14. spector306 says:

    Just FYI, strait from the NHTSA: DOT does NOT approve any motor vehicle equipment items: http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/faq%20site/pages/page2.html#Anchor-19914

    So the question then becomes if this mod complies with FMVSS…

    Occasionally you’ll see something labeled “DOT approved” – but it’s not.

    Another link from the NHTSA:

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/faq%20site/pages/page3.html#Anchor-4900

    A google shows many more examples that the DOT does not approve any manufacturer of equipment.

  15. steve says:

    I find this totally stupid and immature but will give a thumbs up for excellent engineering.

  16. Josh says:

    This gave me an idea for the rear turn signals on my BMW and it looks like it has already been done:

  17. Panq says:

    If by that you mean purely decorative and with no practical purpose, then you are correct, but the same is true for almost all kinds of art.

  18. S2H says:

    There’s a distracted driving law where I live, hopefully some day they’ll have a distracting driver law too…

  19. Argue says:

    Argue, Argue, Argue. Lets figure out how to make one of these! This is a really neat build!

  20. N0LKK says:

    Doesn’t matter if this is something I’d do or not I can appreciate the effort. I’d like to seen a more detail write up on the build. Often if we don’t intend to duplicate the built, we can find ideas we can use in our projects.

    My hunch is that if federal DOT approved LED are in the array to provide for factory colored turn signals, behind a DOT approved factory or replacement lens, street operation wouldn’t be a problem. Any problem could com from the discretionary status that law enforcement officers enjoy. Quite possible if you are observed using the display off the street you could be pulled over after you pull onto a public road. Even if you demonstrate proper turn signal operation, it’s still obvious they aren’t stock equipment to a LEO that seen the the display. Personally I’d leave the stock lights stock, and build a lighting display in a custom grill. Who knows?

  21. Harald says:

    Unfortunately even putting these light into a car -without using them- would be illegal in Europe

    • dan says:

      that’s only sort of true, putting them in is fine, using them on the highway would not be.

      but since these are the indicator lights, then that does mean that the bulbs used aren’t E marked, and aren’t suitable for use in Europe.

      A good example is adding neon lights to the bottom of your car, you can’t use them on the highway, but as soon as you pull into a car park/private property, feel free to turn them on.

  22. kevin mcguigan says:

    I thought this was a site for things hacked. Not a site for traffic and lighting laws 101. Please just stick to the project and leave everything else to the powers that be.

    • dan says:

      I agree, if it weren’t for the fact that HAD have a history of posting unsafe/dangerous/illegal hacks that can get you either dead of locked up without warning…

      The author has said that as far as they can tell the lights are street legal, this clearly isn’t true as the lights don’t meet DOT approval, so it’s questionable whether they are safe in the US.
      they aren’t E-Marked so they definitely aren’t legal in the European region, I don’t know the laws for Australia, but it does seem like these are far from probably legal…

      all these comments are doing is stopping someone from copying this and getting in trouble. face it making blinky lights and gluing them to a car is not a complicated hack, so even an idiot could do this, and get into trouble doing it.

  23. Myke says:

    Illegal, useless, unreliable.
    You aren’t even allowed to use this on the road. It’s also useless and distracting.

    And using an arduino and xbees to communicate with these things is simply retarded. You cannot rely on wireless communication to switch things like these on and off.

    • Starfire says:

      Wow such hatred for something you have no idea as to how they are setup.

      First off the wireless part is strictly for the show mode and sure I could have used some simple rf remote in place of an xbee but trying to send color info means sending actual data, xbees are far more reliable then something that has no protocol and could easily be accidentally activated, is it overkill, yes but it’s over kill for safety. Never mind the fact that the system is designed so as the show modes can never be activated when the car is running. As I had said in the video I’ve ran these for 5000 miles now almost 6000 and have never had a single issue.

      I can understand someone may not like ‘blinky’ lights on a car but saying they are illegal, useless and unreliable is simply not true.

      This was the best reference as to legality of the lights I could find: http://www.aamva.org/aamva/DocumentDisplay.aspx?id={D8DE45A4-4883-4A1E-B2A2-5EE42E8C9BD7}

      I’m having a hard time finding something they don’t comply with since they blink amber like any other light.

      I daily drive my car have been though rain storms, heat, cold, etc and never once have the lights failed, I went as far as buying components that have increased temperature ranges just to be extra safe. The whole system is fused also incase of a problem and when in they standby state then draw no more then 100ma so that’s days and days of standby on a automotive battery, so unreliable? I really doubt it, I am extremely picky about what modifications I do to my car since it is my only car and I cannot be without it in operation.

      Thanks again for those who like the system, or don’t like the idea but like the execution!

      If you want to see pictures of the whole car goto: http://www.vossenwheels.com/CarGallery/Ford-Mustang-VVSCV1-615.aspx

  24. Starfire says:

    I am the builder of the lights and really have no idea if they are legal, I did use the front lens of a clear lens to make these. I never run the ‘color’ modes when driving, also the system to setup to reset to default operation when the car is started or turned off so I can’t accidentally leave them on.

    My first concern was safety as I drive the car daily and I have driven through 10 states, seen by who knows how many police who have also seen the display at car shows and had nothing but compliments so I am not worried.

    Thanks to everyone that likes them, I spent a good solid 2-3 weeks building them, also learning some as I went (was new to xbee’s)

    On a side note anyone hiring a graphic designer, lost my job a few months ago and been looking since!

  25. oldfart says:

    Legal or not, I like it! Nice job on the build.

  26. Maave says:

    New age sequential headlights? Neato

  27. unlimitedbacon says:

    I did something like this a couple years ago but this guy really took it a step further. I’m kind of envious now.

    As far as legality, all I can say is that I never had any problems.

  28. charliex says:

    I like the build, but its important to know what you’re putting on the car too, nothing wrong with looking into the areas outside of just the hack itself. it doesn’t take away from the hack.

    99% of the time you’re never going to get bothered, but traffic cops are going to training courses to show them what to look for in modified cars. They’ll look for things that might suggest bigger illegal changes.. Generally all that happens is you get a fix it ticket. But that might mean pulling off the 5K supercharger you just added because they spotted lights.

    Worst case i can think of is that someone else has an accident because of you and sue’s you, then some crappy court thing happens where you get the blame because its not going to pass the DOT approval process. Like the spinning wheel hub cap things, but that is really really unlikely.

    I make aftermarket engine upgrades and it is amazing to me how few people understand what is legal and whats not, like ‘off road only’ claim for emissions chain equipment. People do get fined, companies can get dinged really badly, but generally average case is a cheap fix it ticket. This stuff is really heavily regulated and they know all the tricks people try.

  29. Dan says:

    I am just curious what he used as his touch screen?

  30. NewCommentor1283 says:

    cool lighting effect, i like it.

    but:

    who the hell cares if they are mounted in a car, and buzz off with the us or euoroupe or wherever laws, this is called the WORLD-WIDE-web!

    we ALL know ALL different countries have ALL different laws regarding lighting!!!

    its usually not as simple as u can or cant.
    in _MY_ area ……. get it?
    YOUR area!?!?!
    what about HIS area? and THAT GUY?
    oh and dont leave out the….. who cares! ?!?!!?!?

    im only interested in whats inside the black box, we all should be. the black box that he didnt show us inside of.

    we saw nothing(!) and your all argueing as if directions have been provided…

    if the DIRECTIONS/SCHEMATIC/SOFTWARE is not provided, then the legality of use by YOU does NOT MATTER!!! and noone has any legal liability for showing it for everyone,,,
    of course if he actually showed us the insides, then it would be a whole different world, which is already solved by the “its for a car show” thing.

    no law anywhere in any country covers lighting on a stationary car in a car-show, because then a model-T headlights arent approuved, and they stick out like sore thumbs… they never get arrested for driving a model-T ford! even on public roads!

    someone could trip and fall bcuz distracted while at a car show, and you do NOT go to jail for bringing a strobe light! why? because they were NOT driving 50MPH!

    now if you want to discuss (smoking) drugs with flashing lights in empty parking lots at night and playing the whole “unlawful-search” card, thats a whole different world! and does not belong here on this wonderful WORLD-WIDE websitesite.

    dont pat yourself on the back, if you get SLOWLY followed out of a parking lot, chances are its not the lights’s fault.

  31. Jeff Kincaid says:

    ITT – Street lawyers and Road Warrior wannabees… LOL
    Anyway, the tail lights on my Mustang flash sequentially from the inside out anyway, no hack needed.
    And as for legality, in VA, the only place he could have that on and flashing like that is on private property, otherwise, as other posters had said, it is considered to be “Equipment not of a type approved by the Superintendent (of the State Police) and his lights would have to function normally on the street.. As for doing donuts in the private lots, yeah, come on into our Glorious Commonwealth and try that and you will go home with a summons for Reckless Driving on Private Property (a specific code section in the motor vehicle code that does NOT require the property owner’s approval)

  32. Troy Hammonds says:

    I am interested to know what circuit was used for the input from the signals.

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