Adding Tie Down Points To Almost Any Car

You know, sometimes it’s the simple hacks that get our attention.  If you have a roof rack, and use it often to shuttle things around, adding these stow-away, front tie downs might be for you.

Most all cars will have a few bolts along the top of the fender that ties into a semi-rigid or structural part of the vehicle. [Andrew Morrow] used about 12 inches of nylon strap, added a hole to the both ends, and attached them to the fender bolts. With the hood closed, he now has a convenient tie down location for what ever he’s hauling around.  We love that when not in use they simply can be stored beneath the hood. Hidden away, but not something you’ll forget to bring with you, or easily lost.  Just make sure that they don’t come in contact with moving engine parts, or hot exhaust manifolds.

Making Mario Kart Real

If you’ve ever had a casual go-kart experience, you might be able to relate to [HowToLou]. He noticed that whenever he tried to race, the same situation inevitably always happened. One racer would end up in front of the pack, and no one else would be able to pass them. The result was more of a caravan of go-karts than an actual race. That’s when he realized that video games like Mario Kart had already figured out how to fix this problem long ago. [Lou] took ideas from these games and implemented them onto a real life go-kart in order to improve the experience. The result is what he calls a Flash Kart.

The key to improving the experience was to add more features that you don’t normally get in a real word go-karting experience. The Flash Kart uses an electronic drive system that is controlled by computer. This setup allows the computer to limit the speed of the kart so they are all the same. The system includes a Logitech gaming steering wheel with built-in control buttons. There is also a color LCD screen mounted as a heads up display. The screen displays the racer’s speed in miles per hour, as well as multiple MP3 music tracks to choose from. The system provides the user with a limited number of speed boost tokens, listed on the heads up display. The user can also view their current ranking, their location on the track, or even get a view directly behind them.

The back of the kart includes a 23″ LCD screen that shows other players who you are and what team you are on. For added fun, the rider can display taunting messages to other racers using this screen. The front of the kart includes a laser cannon for shooting other karts as well as a “token scoop” sensor. This allows the riders to pick up virtual items such as laser cannon ammo, shields, or extra speed boost tokens.

To pack in all of this added functionality, [Lou] started with a typical go-kart chassis. From there, he built a custom fiber glass shell for the back-end. This houses most of the sensitive electronics. The system is powered by three 12V deep cycle batteries. A 15HP electric motor drives the rear wheels. The throttle is controlled with a gas pedal that simply feeds to a sensor that is hooked up to the control computer. The heart of the system is a computer that runs on a 2.6Ghz small footprint Zotac motherboard with Windows XP. The software is custom written in C#. The computer is plugged into a miniLAB 1008 interface board. This is how it communicates with all of the various sensors. The interface board is also used to control a number of relays which in turn control the speed of the kart.

Unfortunately [Lou] built this kart years ago and doesn’t include many details about what sensors he is using, or how the software works. Still, this was such a cool idea that we had to share it. Be sure to watch [Lou’s] video below to see the kart in action. Continue reading “Making Mario Kart Real”

Homebrew ECU Increases Mazda Zoom

A big problem with most modern cars is the sheer number of parts and systems that are not user serviceable. This is a big departure from cars of just decades ago that were designed to be easily worked on by the owner. To that end, [Anthony] aka [fuzzymonkey] has tackled what is normally the hardest thing to work on in modern cars: the Engine Control Unit. (Older posts on this project can be found at [Anthony]’s old project log.)

Every sensor in any modern car is monitored by a computer called the Engine Control Unit (ECU), and the computer is responsible for taking this data and making decisions on how the car should be running. In theory a custom ECU would be able to change any behavior of the car, but in practice this is extremely difficult due to the sheer number of operations required by the computer and the very specific tolerances of a modern engine.

The custom ECU that Anthony has created for his Mazda MX-5 (a Miata for those in North America) is based on the PIC18F46K80 microcontroller, and there are actually two units involved. The first handles time-sensitive operations like monitoring the engine cam position and engine timing, and the other generates a clock signal for the main unit and also monitors things like cooling temperature and controlling idle speed. The two units communicate over SPI.

[Anthony]’s custom ECU is exceptional in that he’s gotten his car running pretty well. There are some kinks, but hopefully he’ll have a product that’s better than the factory ECU by allowing him to change anything from throttle response and engine timing to the air-fuel ratio. There have been a few other attempts to tame the ECU beast in the past, but so far there isn’t much out there.

Continue reading “Homebrew ECU Increases Mazda Zoom”

Instrument Cluster Clock Gets The Show On The Road

While driving around one day, [Esko] noticed that the numbers and dials on a speedometer would be a pretty great medium for a clock build. This was his first project using a microcontroller, and with no time to lose he got his hands on the instrument cluster from a Fiat and used it to make a very unique timepiece.

The instrument cluster he chose was from a diesel Fiat Stilo, which [Esko] chose because the tachometer on the diesel version suited his timekeeping needs almost exactly. The speedometer measures almost all the way to 240 kph which works well for a 24-hour clock too. With the major part sourced, he found an Arduino clone and hit the road (figuratively speaking). A major focus of this project was getting the CAN bus signals sorted out. It helped that the Arduino clone he found had this functionality built-in (and ended up being cheaper than a real Arduino and shield) but he still had quite a bit of difficulty figuring out all of the signals.

In the end he got everything working, using a built-in servo motor in the cluster to make a “ticking” sound for seconds, and using the fuel gauge to keep track of the minutes. [Esko] also donated it to a local car museum when he finished so that others can enjoy this unique timepiece. Be sure to check out the video below to see this clock in action, and if you’re looking for other uses for instrument clusters that you might have lying around, be sure to check out this cluster used for video games.

The mechanics in dashboards are awesome, and produced at scale. That’s why our own [Adam Fabio] is able to get a hold of that type of hardware for his Analog Gauge Stepper kit. He simply adds a 3D printed needle, and a PCB to make interfacing easy.

Continue reading “Instrument Cluster Clock Gets The Show On The Road”

Where 3000MPG+ Cars Come To Compete: The Ecomarathon

Every year teams from around the world come together for the Ecomarathon, an event (ironically put on by Shell) that tasks teams from high schools and universities with creating energy-efficient electric, gas, and hybrid vehicles. This year’s competition was held in Detroit, so I headed over to check it out.

vehicle-blurThe event has two categories that vehicles compete in: prototype vehicles that compete for the highest fuel efficiency and “urban concept” vehicles that are more focused on normal driving environments and look slightly closer to street-legal vehicles. Cars in both categories can be fully electric or powered by gas, diesel, compressed natural gas, or other alternative fuels. Vehicles drive around a 0.9 mile track that weaves through downtown Detroit and the efficiency of each vehicle is measured as they complete a fixed number of laps around the track.

Continue reading “Where 3000MPG+ Cars Come To Compete: The Ecomarathon”

Hack a Lock, Get a Free Car?

No, we’re not talking about any lock, or car for that matter. The creators of Loxet are so confident in their product, a smart lock for your car, they’ve issued a challenge to the world. If you can defeat it, you can keep the car — sadly the car isn’t anything special though.

The device, after installed on your vehicle, gives you a taste of the premium lifestyle of fancy push-to-start vehicles. It automatically unlocks your vehicle when you come near with your cellphone, and only your cellphone. It also has the option to give access to friends and family using an invite system. It controls ignition access, and works as a proximity lock.

The car is located at ul. Straszewskiego 14 in Krakow. If you’re not from Poland, [Matt] recommends you team up with a local to try your hack. The alternate prize (if you’re not from Poland or don’t want the car) is $2000.

The car is just sitting there. We’d love to see some 1st person attempts from any of our Polish readers living in Krakow! It is currently set to unlock and lock every 10 minutes. You might be able to get into the vehicle — but will you be able to take it? Let us know!

Continue reading “Hack a Lock, Get a Free Car?”

Speaking CAN With Open Source Hardware

You can buy a dongle with a weird industrial connector that fits under the dash of any car on the road for $15. This is just a simple ODB-II transceiver meant for reading error codes and turning a Crown Vic into a police interceptor. There’s a lot more to the CAN Bus than OBD-II; robots and industrial control units, for instance, and Hackaday alum [Eric] has developed an open source tool for all things CAN.

[Eric] built this tool because of a lac of open-source tools that can talk CAN. There are plenty of boards floating around that can reset codes in a car using OBD-II, but an open hardware CAN device doesn’t really exist.

The CANtact is a small board outfitted with a USB port on one end, a DE-9 port on the other, and enough electronics to talk to any CAN device. The hardware on the CANtact is an STM32F0 – an ARM Cortex M0 that comes with USB and CAN interfaces. This chip connects to a Microchip CAN transceiver, and that’s pretty much all you need to talk to cars and industrial automation equipment. If doing something legal, moral, or safe with the CAN bus in your car isn’t your thing, Wired reports you can digitally cut someone’s brake lines.

On the software side of things, the CANtact can interface with Wireshark and the CANard Python library. All the files, from hardware to software, are available on the Github. Oh, CANtact was at Black Hat Asia, which means [Eric] was at Black Hat Asia. We should have sent stickers with him.