This week [Geohot] announced the launch of his self-driving car hardware. This is the natural extension of his proof-of-concept shown off in December which he parlayed into a Silicon Valley startup called comma.ai. [Geohot], whose real name is [George Hotz], is well known for jailbreaking the iPhone and making Sony look like idiots when they retroactively crippled Linux support on PS3. He has hardware chops.
Initial self-driving add-on hardware only works with Honda and Acura models that already have lane-keeping assist features because those vehicles already have built-in front radar. The package, which replaces the rear view mirror, adds a front facing camera. Those lucky (or brave, foolish, daring?) beta users can trade $999 and $24/month for what is currently a green 3D printed enclosure with some smartphone-like hardware inserted.
The company has taken an interesting approach to acquiring data needed for this particular flavor of self-driving. [Hotz] is teasing a chance at beta test invites to those who contribute driving data to the company. This is as simple as downloading an app to your phone and letting it roll from your windshield as you go bumper to bumper from Mountain View to San Francisco. That’s right, the plan is to support just that stretch of the nation’s highway system — although [Hotz] did make a brazen estimate of 90% of commutes for 90% of users within a year. Hey, it’s a startup so it’s either that, selling to a bigger fish, or closing their doors.
That narrow route support is actually an interesting constraint. In fact, the company is most interesting because of its chosen constraints: a small subset of cars, a chosen stretch of highway, and dare we say sanity when it comes to self-driving expectations. Grandiose claims have the general public thinking a vehicle with no human driver will slide up to your stoop and take you anywhere you want to go. That is a dauntingly difficult engineering challenge (dare we say impossible). What [Hotz] is selling is a more stress-free commute, not a nap in the back seat. You still need to be paying attention at all times.
Will this system work? Undoubtedly the engineering is possible (Tesla is already doing it). The biggest question mark that remains is human nature. This system demands your attention even though you’re doing nothing. That seems unrealistic — users are bound to lapse in attention much more frequently than if they were the primary driver. The question then becomes, will people pay attention at the very rare yet very crucial moments, and can a system like this prevent more fatal accidents than it causes?
It’s a wonder that drivers are given so little insight into what’s going on under the hood. We mostly have the illusion of insight in the form of gauge, idiot lights, and when things get real, our eyesight and sense of smell. The older a car gets, the more important it is to be aware of the condition of its systems.
[Mjtrinihobby] drives a beat-up 1999 Honda Civic. He likes creating automation systems as a hobby and figured that his car would make an excellent test subject. [Mjtrinihobby] began this project with several features in mind. He wanted more control over several of the car’s systems—the A/C, lights, the fuel level, and the blower motor in the cabin to name a few—and a compact, user-friendly way to interface with them that could handle road shock and the heat of the climate he calls home.
He chose a Windows 8.1 netbook with a touchscreen display for the user interface. The netbook is running FlowStone, which is a robust graphical programming language with a long list of applications. A LabJack data acquisition board (DAQ) handles the communication between the car’s systems and the netbook.
This is much more than just a cool way to control the climate and make the headlights come on when darkness falls. For instance, [Mjtrinihobby]’s system continuously monitors the alternator’s voltage. If it measures between 7 and 12V, a friendly voice warns about possible alternator failure and disables high-draw accessories so the car has a fighting chance of making it to the mechanic.
Be sure to check out the demonstration video after the break. If OBD-II car hacks are more your speed, try building an RGB tachometer.
Continue reading “Talking Car Automation Computer is like KITT without the Sass”
The handlebars of this Honda CL175 ended up being perfect for holding two Nixie tubes which serve as the speedometer. There are two circular cavities on the front fork tree which are the same size as the Nixies. Wrapping the tubes in a bit of rubber before the installation has them looking like they are factory installed!
This isn’t a retrofit, he’s added the entire system himself. It starts with a hall effect sensor and magnets on the rear wheel and swing arm. Right now the result is 4 MPH resolution but he plans to add more magnets to improve upon that. For now, the driver and speedometer circuitry are hosted on protoboard but we found a reddit thread where [Johnathan] talks about creating a more compact PCB. If your own bike lacks the fork tree openings for this (or you need help with the drivers) check out this other Nixie build for a slick-looking enclosure idea.
The link at the top is a garage demo, but last night he also uploaded a rolling test to show the speedometer in action. Check out both videos after the break.
Continue reading “Nixie Tube Speedometer In Motorcycle Handlebars”
[TheJogdredge] has been testing out his new gold washing machines that he made at home. By running dirt laced with rocks through this trommel, gold and precious materials can be filtered out. A video of the process can be seen embedded below.
The rig — which is meant to be easily lugged around from site to site — is powered by a Honda GX120 motor. No plastic parts were used in the system to help make it more durable. But foregoing the use of plastic means that this guy is heavy. The rig weighs about 240 pounds dry, and 265 when soaking wet with a sluice box attached. The rubber tires allow for the machine to be maneuvered from place to place without much hassle.
Although the parts are described on the website, no how-to instructions for this specific device can be found online. This is probably due to the fact that [TheJogdredge] is trying to sell his products and make some money. Releasing the instructions on how to build your own would most likely cut into the potential profits of his design. Regardless of which, this is portable gold mining trommel and perfect for those looking to step up their gold mining and prospecting game. The real question on our minds is: can you get more gold for less effort this way, or through electronic junk mining?
Continue reading “Homemade Portable Gold Mining Trommel”
[Hyeinkali’s] iPod Nano looks right at home on the dashboard of his 2001 Honda Accord. He got rid of the simple LCD clock and the buttons that were used to set it. The hack holds the iPod securely in place, but it remains easy to remove and take with you.
He started by popping out the bezel that holds the clock module and hazard light button in place. The original display was about the same width as the Nano, but he wasn’t interested in mounting the mp3 player under the dash. Since he needed to be able to take it with him to sync his music library he made a space near the bottom of the bezel to accept the connector end of the USB cable while keeping the device accessible. After connecting the other end to power he covered the hole in the bezel with mesh and put everything back together. We’re not sure if audio is piped into the car stereo via a cable or through Bluetooth, but it does feed to the head unit.
[Juan] dropped us a note to let us know about a little project he’s working on. A few years ago, he bought a Honda S2000. It served him well, but now he’s converting it to electric power, and it’s going to be a beast.
[Juan] is using 104 battery packs each containing 4 cells in parallel. The total output of his battery assemblage is 686 kilowatts, or 920 horsepower. [Juan] is assuming his drive train will be 85% efficient, meaning his wheels will be getting 782 horsepower and 1500 ft/lbs of torque at 0 rpm. Yes, this thing is going to scream.
A project of this caliber is usually undertaken by gear heads with decades of experience, but that’s not the case for [Juan]; he’s still a senior in High School. A build this awesome can only portend a very bright future as an engineer and certainly a few drag race wins. This car is going to be a monster, and we can’t wait to see it on the track.
[Tyler LaVite] tipped us off about the generator he built. He combined a 5.5 horsepower Honda motor with a 10 horsepower electric bandsaw motor. To get an induction generator to produce alternating current you must feed electricity into the system to start the magnetic flux. [Tyler’s] solution was to include a bank of capacitors totaling 230mF which charge from the motor, then release back into the system. It’s not as green as the syngas generators we’ve seen since it still uses fossil fuel, but it reuses old parts sending less to the landfill.