Road Apology/Gratitude Emitter Car LED Sign

Sometimes, when you’re driving, a simple wave when someone lets you in can go unnoticed and sometimes you make a mistake and a simple wave just isn’t enough. [Noapparentfunction] came up with a nice project to say ‘Thanks’ and ‘My Bad’ to his fellow drivers.

The display uses four Max 7219 LED matrix displays, so the total resolution is 32 by 8. [Noapparentfunction] came up with an inspired idea: using a glasses case to hold the LED matrices and Raspberry Pi. It’s easy to get into if necessary, stays closed, and provides a nice finished look. Having little knowledge of electronics and no programming skills, [Noapparentfunction] had to rely on cutting and pasting Python code as well as connecting a mess of wires together, but the end result works, and that’s what matters.

A network cable runs from the glasses case suction cupped to the rear window to another project box under the dashboard. There, the network cable is connected to two buttons and the power. No network information is passed, the cable is just a convenient collection of wires with which to send signals. Each of the buttons shows a different message on the display.

Depending on where you live, this might not be legal, and we’re sure many of our readers (as well as your author) could come up with some different messages to display. However, this is a cool idea and despite [Noapparentfunction]’s admitted limitations, is a nice looking finished product. Also, its name is Road Apology Gratitude Emitter. Here are some other car mod articles: This one adds some lighting to the foot well and glove compartment and this one on the heinousness of aftermarket car alarms.

71 thoughts on “Road Apology/Gratitude Emitter Car LED Sign

      1. I heard long ago that the Rolls-Royce has that as a standard feature, a soft and normal horn, and I mean in RR’s from 50+ years ago already.
        It’s odd to me that that is only now becoming a thing somewhat for home-made hacks.

  1. Obviously inappropriate in Massachusetts, where there are only three kinds of drivers: (1) The idiots, in front of me, going too slow, (2) the maniacs, behind me, trying to get me to go faster, and (3) you and me. The only device necessary is the bumper sticker: Horn Broke Watch Finger.

    1. I live in CT. When those MASS drivers blow through our state like idiots we call them something like POTUS-45 called Africa and Haiti lately. MASS-H****, It’s like our state troopers don’t see them driving like mental health patients running from a imaginary monster,,, When they hit the state line on I-91 South it’s like a starting flag at Indy 500. If someone is driving past you like their butt was on fire or illegal lane changes, tail-gating, etc, just look at the plates and see this:

        1. Antron Argaiv – Actually New Yorkers have gotten better over last few years. I think ever since the NY mayor passed that anti-horn ordinance they don’t lay on the horn on us CT neighbors. And their driving habits have evolved in a good way. They are mostly all “lead foots” still but NY drivers have less insanity than Mass h*les. They don’t tailgate as much as they used to. Hardly any road rage from NYers any more. However, our own CT knuckleheads still do. The ones with the BIG pickup trucks with loud diesels are the worst. None of them are working trucks, just show-offs in hock up to their necks to the corrupt CT auto dealerships they bought the darn thing from.

          Mass DMH (Dept of Mental Health) has 27 offices. Northampton is closest to CT. I’m sure none of their in-patients drive cars for obvious reasons (i.e. “I brake for Unicorns?”). Just undiagnosed Mass h*les that SHOULD be in there.

      1. For tailgating, add a proximity detector that will turn on your backup lights if someone gets too close.

        Actually, this is probably a “borderline insane” idea, because the tailgater just might be certifiably insane, and take revenge. They never should have closed that Massachusetts state hospital in Danvers.

        1. Mas Shole – I have. I regretted it too. When I’m in NYC I drive aggressively like a Cabbie. However, BEANTOWN is the worst. I drive in many places across USA and abroad and I have encountered some bad places, like the beltway in Wash DC, Minneapolis and Wisconsin (both not that bad), Chicago, LA (pretty bad) my sister was just side swiped on the 405, Mexico (pretty bad), NJ (Northern on I95 and south Atlantic City pretty bad), Philly (so so), Canada (very good), etc. I prefer to avoid Boston. During the reconstruction on the main highway into town for years was quite bad (didn’t it collapse once?). Now that it’s done it’s better. I may drive up to see the aquarium some time soon. I think you need POTUS Bush II up-armored SUV to drive up there… :-)

      1. Do you actually mean it move to give them the finger.
        That would be So So cool.
        I need that.
        Or. I was thinking LCD monitors are dirt cheep now Like $5-$10
        Use a cheep Orange PI to have it display the hand giving the finger. Among other things.

    1. It occasionally occurs to me that some sort of Bluetooth-range radio communication with the drivers of other cars might be handy. Then I remember what would happen in places such as Massachusetts, and immediately drop the idea and think about something else.

  2. Years ago, Sam’s Club sold a LED scroll sign for about $125, I thought it would be a neat thing to have.
    I told the wife we could have it in our front window scrolling greetings to people passing by (though I admit, I was really thinking about having in the rear window of my SUV).
    But she didn’t go for it…


    1. i had one of those too, but one of the main reasons for me building a custom one is that aside from the fact that this could be potentially a minor distraction to begin with, scrolling is far worse in my opinion.

      i couldn’t find an LED sign that allowed messages to simply appear and then disappear after a short time. so here we are.

      1. I am fascinated by comments like this. They pop up regularly in all kinds of forums and for all kinds of topics.

        It doesn’t exactly say anything. It doesn’t point out something. It doesn’t agree nor disagree. It doesn’t add information. It isn’t a meta-comment either.

        So (if you are still reading) what is the meaning of your post? Genuinely curious – not trying to irritate you or something, just curious.

  3. Here are two other ideas for a Highway Chat Network:

    1. Hang a large paper sign with a free reserve-less conference call number and participant code; “HI FELLOW DRIVER CALL ME IF YOU WANT TO TALK – 712-555-5555 Participant code 1234#” – then just keep the conference call up on your SmartPhone speakerphone awaiting people to dial in. You can drop people at will if they are rude.

    2. I found this ZELLO dot com CB Radio simulator app. There is a paper sign cut-out piece for a car window QR code link. Seems cool. Check it out: I think ZELLO is the greatest smartphone walkie-talkie simulator app I’ve ever seen.

      1. I agree. You could just do the preliminaries in a truck stop or rest stop parking lot. Leave the paper sign up as you go into the building. You probably can’t scan a QR Code from a moving car anyway. Or your passenger could do it. With ZELLO you can also sent text messages not just voice. Either way DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE!

  4. Causing more trouble when trying to read the worst font ever. What are those 3 things in the top pix? The are federal standards about every light emitting source on a car and bigger trucks. Try a two sided flip up sign in retro reflective lettering. Or try Braille pins that stick up on the rear bumper for blind drivers! There is another federal for a maximum of 8 characters in so many seconds with no scrolling on display in-dash.

    1. well, im the guy that built this, so i guess ill explain myself:

      i dont use that font for the ‘thanks’ and the ‘sorrys’…its just the intro logo (spelling NAF, which is my username) when i start the car.

      youre probably right about the questionable legality, ive lost count of the armchair lawyers telling me this. ill try to avoid apologizing to a cop. the sign doesnt blink, rotate, scroll, or otherwise engage in any time of blatantly distracting behavior. i just click the button and the message pops up for 2 seconds then disappears.

  5. I had a Bad drive home today. My Van had a sign saying cut me off day on it somewhere.
    I would love to have a High power laser inscribing on the other vehicle ” I am a @#@#$ driver And I will cut you off ”
    Or something like that. I know it is illegal to damage someones property. But boy I really wish you could do this some times.

      1. I also sometimes dreamed about this :-) With the right amount of power to blow the wreckage completely off the road. Not to have a the road blocked by a wreck completely instead of just a driver in front of you, who does not know, what’s the purpose of this narrow pedal under your right foot. But I am not sure how to avoid a crater :-)

    1. Here in Mass. we know better than to drive on the first (or second) snow day. That’s when all the newcomers discover the joys of driving on roads without friction. Once they’ve all learned how to drive in snow, the locals come back out, knowing that the slowest learners are off the roads.

      If I lived in a state where it rarely snowed, I would call in sick, rather than be a part of that picture.

  6. I had this idea too! Incidentally it is illegal in CI, UK etc to “install or use on your vehicle an offensive or distracting device” which could be anything from a spinning advertising sign to an insulting brake light. So please be careful, the penalties can be quite severe!

    1. BotherSaidLawyers – Where is CI???

      Here in CT, USA it is illegal to have any flashing light on your car while moving INCLUDING your hazard lights – unless your doing it for bad road conditions and driving slow to compensate.

      I hate those roadside electronic billboards that have messages too long for short attention span drivers and those that would rubberneck to get every word…

    1. jackcrenshaw – I agree however, some blokes are really hard-headed about this and need something like this mounted on both ends of your car to help warn them off:

      How about the idiot that parks in front of you at the supermarket while you are waiting with his high beams in your face while he’s sitting there waiting for his wife? Common courtesy says TURN OFF YOUR LIHTS MORON! You’re blinding the guy in front of you.

  7. That kind of device is totally illegal in Germany, and probably in any other state of the European Union as well:
    The laws and decrees contain exhaustive lists of what type of devices are allowed to be installed on or in a car that have light sources pointed outwards (especially at other road users) and very strict legal restrictions for any of the allowed categories about color, position, angles and power (for most of those even requiring type certification). If you get caught using such a light-emitting display, you’re in for a hefty fine.

      1. Some advertising companies are now trying it with a large TV or Computer monitor on side of trailer or a truck. I think cell phone companies like Verizon are trying it. You’ll only see it in NYC like around Times Square. The authorities (LEO) like it when they use it in stationary mode in a parking area. It only adds to distracted driving.

  8. Not to besmirch my neighbors to the north (Massachusetts), but once I took a ride from my old buddy from Boston. He was visiting me in CT. We got on I-84 like a maniac. He paid no attention to merging, he was doing 80 mph when speed limit was 65. He was weaving in and out of traffic. Cursing at other obedient drivers. Almost hit a few. And I think he had a snoot-full (impaired by alcohol). Trust me it was the last time I went anywhere with him again!

    Then just yesterday in Wallingford CT we get this moron car-jacking CT people and crashing their cars IN THE FILING STATION PARKING LOT! Guess where he was from? Yup, you got it. I think drivers licenses are given out at the local liquor store up there or something:

    Don’t get me wrong MASS is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I love it up there. The Native American name actually translates it’s beauty. It’s just the frickin’ drivers! We’re not that much better. In the video above you see one of our diesel pickup truck muscle-bound jerks bragging about what he would do to that car jacker if he were there… what wet yerself’ if he was armed?

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