Newsflash: A Bunch of Arduinos is Not an Autonomous Car

Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes you’re up late at night writing a blog post and you stumble upon an incredible story. You write it up, and it ends up being, well, incredible. IEEE Spectrum took the bait on this video (embedded below) where [Keran McKenzie] claims to have built a self-driving car for under $1,000 AUS with Arduinos.

The video is actually pretty funny, and we don’t think it’s intended to be a mass-media hoax as much as a YouTube joke. After letting the car “take over” for a few seconds, it swerves and [Keran] pretends to have hit something. (He’s using his knees people!) There are lots of takes with him under the car, and pointing at a single wire that supposedly makes the whole thing work. Yeah, right.

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Hacker Helps His Mother Lift Her Walker When He’s Not There

[typo]’s mother gets around with a walker. It’s a great assistive device until she has to lift the heavy thing up into her car. Noting that this was a little cruel he did as any hacker would and found a way to automate the process.

The build is pretty cool. She had to give up her passenger seat, but it’s a small price to pay for independence. He removed the door paneling on the passenger side. Then he welded on a few mounting points. Next he had to build the device.

The well-built device has a deceptively simple appearance. The frame is made from CNC milled panels and the ever popular aluminum extrusion. It uses a 12V right angle drive and some belting to lift the chair. There’s no abundance of fancy electronics here. A toggle switch changes the direction of the motor. There are some safety endstops and an e-stop.

Now all she has to do is strap the walker to the door. She picks the direction she wants the lift to go and presses a button. After which she walks the short distance to the driver’s seat, and cruises away.

Fail of the Week: Power Wheels Racing Series

[ITMAN496] and his local HAM radio group entered the Power Wheels Racing Series with great intentions, a feeling of unlimited power, and the universal spirit of procrastination all hackers share.

It wasn’t the first time his group had worked together on something a little different, such as a robot that can deploy an antenna by climbing poles. However, this one had a time limit and they ended up trying to fit it all in the week before the race.

They had a pretty good design. [ITMAN496] had modeled the entire frame in SketchUp and even did physics simulations to get the steering just right. However, the best laid plans of mice and men often don’t fully take into account just how hard it is to get the motor drivers they bought working.

In the end, what they really needed was time to test. The setscrews couldn’t hold the motor on the shaft, the electronics needed debugging, and one of the belts was too long. The design was solid, but without time to percussively maintain the last bugs out of the system, it just wasn’t going to run.

[ITMAN496] is taking this lesson properly; he’s already planning for next year’s run, but this time he’ll have time to test. We must commend him — the build under these time constraints was still impressive. Even more so that he took the time to document everything while it was happening, and to share the story of shortfall after the fact. We’re always on the hunt for documented fails (the best way to really learn something).

Raspberry Pi Adds A Digital Dash To Your Car

Looking for a way to make your older car more hi-tech? Why not add a fancy digital display? This hack from [Greg Matthews] does just that, using a Raspberry Pi, a OBD-II Consult reader and an LCD screen to create a digital dash that can run alongside (or in front of ) your old-school analog dials.

[Greg’s] hack uses a Raspberry Pi Foundation display, which includes a touch screen, so you don’t need a mouse or other controls. Node.js displays the speed, RPM, and engine temperature (check engine lights and other warnings are planned additions) through a webpage displayed using Chromium. The Node page is pulling info from another program on the Pi which monitors the CAN Consult bus. It would be interesting to adapt this to use with more futuristic displays, maybe something like a pico projector and a 1-way mirror for a heads-up display.

To power the system [Greg] is using a Mausberry power supply which draws power from your car battery, but which also cleanly shuts down the Pi when the ignition is turned off so it won’t drain your battery. When you throw in an eBay sourced OBD-II Consult reader and the Consult Dash software that [Greg] wrote to interpret and display the data from the OBD-II Consult bus, you get a decent digital dash display. Sure, it isn’t a Tesla touchscreen, but at $170, it’s a lot cheaper. Spend more and you can easily move that 60″ from your livingroom out to your hoopty and still use a Raspberry Pi.

What kind of extras would you build into this system? Gamification of your speed? Long-term fuel averaging? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE – This post originally listed this hack as working from the OBD-II bus. However, this car does not have OBD-II, but instead uses Consult, an older data bus used by Nissan. Apologies for any confusion!

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Hackaday Prize Entry: AutoFan Saves Tired Drivers With Face Recognition

Long distance driving can be tedious at times. The glare of the sun and the greenhouse effect of all your car’s windows make it hot and dry. You turn on the fan, or air conditioning if you have it, and that brings relief. Soon enough you’ve got another problem, the cold dry air is uncomfortable on your eyes. Eventually as you become more tired, you find yourself needing the air on your face more and more as you stay alert. You thus spend most of the journey fiddling with your vents or adjusting the climate controls. Wouldn’t it be great if the car could do all that for you?

AutoFan is a project from [hanno] that aims to automate this process intelligently. It has a fan with steerable louvres, driven by a Raspberry Pi 2 with attached webcam. The Pi computes the position of the driver’s face, and ensures the air from the fan is directed to one side of it. If it sees the driver’s blink rate increasing it directs the air to their face, having detected that they are becoming tired.

The build logs go into detail on the mathematics of calculating servo angles and correcting for camera lens distortion in OpenCV. They also discuss the Python code used to take advantage of the multicore architecture, and to control the servos. The prototype fan housing can be seen in the video below the break, complete with an unimpressed-looking cat. For those of you interested in the code, he has made it available in a GitHub repository.

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Arduino + Software Defined Radio = Millions of Vulnerable Volkswagens

As we’ve mentioned previously, the integrity of your vehicle in an era where even your car can have a data connection could be a dubious bet at best. Speaking to these concerns, a soon-to-be published paper (PDF) out of the University of Birmingham in the UK, states that virtually every Volkswagen sold since 1995 can be hacked and unlocked by cloning the vehicle’s keyfob via an Arduino and software defined radio (SDR).

The research team, led by [Flavio Garcia], have described two main vulnerabilities: the first requires combining a cyrptographic key from the vehicle with the signal from the owner’s fob to grant access, while the second takes advantage of the virtually ancient HiTag2 security system that was implemented in the 1990s. The former affects up to 100 million vehicles across the Volkswagen line, while the latter will work on models from Citroen, Peugeot, Opel, Nissan, Alfa Romero, Fiat, Mitsubishi and Ford.

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R/C Hot Rod Built Completely From Scratch

[ossum]’s R/C hot rod shows what’s possible when a talented hacker takes full advantage of all the modern resources available to them. The results are stunning.

[ossum] had a stack of Amazon and Shapeways credits lying around after winning a few competitions. He had this dream of building an R/C car for a while, and decided now was the time. After ordering all the needed parts from Amazon, he made an extremely nice model of the car in Fusion 360. The CAD model is a great learning resource. If you want to learn how to use reference photos, parts, and more to build a detailed and useful CAD model we recommend downloading it as a Fusion archive and scrubbing through the timeline to see how he did it.

Some of the parts were sent off for laser cutting. Others were 3D printed. The rest he made himself. Thanks to his model, they all went together well. You can see his R/C rod racing in the video after the break.

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