Race Car POV LED Displays


Last year, when [Alex] was asked by his friend [Martin] to help him out with building some LED POV modules for a race car, his response was a enthusiastic “YES!”

[Martin’s] goal was to involve fans more deeply in the race, so he decided that the POV modules would carry messages from fans on-board, printing them in the night as the race cars screamed around the track. The pair started prototyping and testing a design, wrapping things up shortly before this year’s 24 hours of Nürburgring.

The modules consist of an Arduino-compatible AVR, a GPS module, a 16-LED light bar, and the circuitry for driving the LEDs. While most of the components are pretty standard fare, the we don’t often see a GPS sensor built into a POV display. [Alex] says that the sensor is used to calculate the speed of the cars, ensuring a uniform font size.

They took their LED displays to the 24 hours of Nürburgring, where they were invited by Audi to install the modules on a pair of R8 Le Mans race cars. As you can see by the pictures on his blog and Flickr set, the POV units worked out nicely without having to stretch the camera exposure times too far.

If you’ re interested to hear a bit more about how the displays were built, check out this entry in[Alex’s] blog, where he goes through some additional details.

Update:[Alex] pointed us to the videos!

26 thoughts on “Race Car POV LED Displays

  1. This post prompted a discussion internally.

    When does POV become light painting? We’ve heard people get nitpicky on the subject in our comment section.

    I propose this. If it *can* be seen by the naked eye, it is POV. If it *requires* slow shutter times it is light painting.

    This means that POV could be light painting, but light painting isn’t POV. What do you guys think?

  2. You’re right Caleb, POV is, by its definition, entirely in the eye. (Well, and the brain.)

    I wish there was a video of the above to see how the effect looked live.

  3. Awesome – I was wondering if something like this would work. If you capture the pulse signal from the transmission you won’t even need a temperamental GPS module. pulse = delay. I would suspect it would be as accurate or better. – Kris

  4. I guess then things get a little mixed up when someone does a video of a POV project. Every frame of the video has a shutter duration (or sampling period or sensor stabilization period, whatever), so light painting would then occur during every frame as the shutter for that frame is open.

    I think that’s an issue why CG video looks strange. If an object is moving on film, the individual frames are blurred with motion, but on say a video game, every frame is rendered as it is at a given moment, and it looks strange. I know some games have post-processing to “fix” this issue, but it never looks right to me.

  5. I hope they check the messages before they load them into the system, imagine the what the driver would think when his pit crew tells him his car just displayed the message “I’m playing with my stick and I LOVE IT!”

  6. Of course if a human can read the text as the car passes it’s POV. To call the the selective use of a shutter speed to capture the effect with a camera to call it light painting, and not POV is invalid in IMO. Would they then call the the selective use of film, and shutter speed to capture lower paced activity without blurring light painting as well? Light painting certainly isn’t POV, but I wouldn’t say POV can be light painting.

  7. @Caleb Agreed.

    If it were given a similar name, light painting would be called Persistence Of Shutter. I think I just figured out why light painting doesn’t share naming conventions with POV.

    The OP is pretty dang cool.

  8. I wish the intent of this was to provide race stats for each car, speed, position, g forces etc. If you oversize it so it can be seen from far away it would be cool for the spectators.

    Even better if they ditched the POV entirely and had a pair of glasses (or similar) superimposing info with Augmented reality enabled app that provided this info as you looked at each car.

  9. From the build log:
    “It’s almost invisible to the human eye. If you look at the car at a 90° angle while the car is passing by, you can see a couple of characters, but it’s not really possible to read something. So, you need to take a photo.”

    That’s a shame, because the results look amazing. At least it will probably prevent this being used for advertising more frequently. For now, anyway.

  10. This is going to bring a whole new level to the advertising. Not only text displays, but also regular color graphics. Instead of stickers on the car, companies will be paying big bucks for advertising time on the display, the most expensive will be as the car crosses the finish line of course.
    They’ll have “display sticks” (the set of LED’s), on the sides and probably one on the hood or the top of the car also.
    You won’t be able to look at (or photograph) a car on a track without seeing an advertisement.

    It’s only a matter of time before we get high resolution 16 bit color displays.

  11. One more thing, if they’re displaying statistics from the car, shouldn’t they be able to display the SPEED?? And do away with the GPS?

    if anything, I’d use the GPS to select the message, based on the position on the track.

    I’d think the speed sensors from the car would be better than using the GPS to determine speed anyway.

  12. Track and Field championships have been using this for many years on the finish line. The finish line camera takes a very small (1″) wide picture of the finish line and extends it along a time axis so you can see precisely where each runner finished in a time encoded image. For a while now they have a 1″ wide flickering LED array on the sideline next to the finish so that advertising is superimposed behind the runners as they finish.

    It looks like just flashing to the outside observer, but shows up well in the image (see below link).

  13. The reason for the GPS as opposed to internally generated speed data is this system can be applied to any car. Easy wirefree install on a race car, or a 67 VW Beetle, if you wanted.

  14. reading the comments it seems that it doesnt work that well:

    “Q: Great Job with that POV!
    How much do you need to concentrate to see the messages when just watching the car? You don’t actually need to take a photo, right?
    Also what speed is needed to be able to see the messages?

    A: It’s almost invisible to the human eye. If you look at the car at a 90° angle while the car is passing by, you can see a couple of characters, but it’s not really possible to read something. So, you need to take a photo.
    I haven’t tested it slower than 30 km/h but it should already work at 15-20km/h.”

    Though its not clear to me wheter the one answering is the blog author or not

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