It’s often been our experience that some of the most impressive projects are the passion builds, the ones where the builder really put in their all and obsessed over every detail. Even if they don’t always have a practical application, it’s impossible to look at the final product and not respect the accomplishment.
Case in point, this absolutely incredible 3D printed model of a sequential “dogbox” transmission created by [Indeterminate Design]. All of the STL files and a complete bill of materials are available for anyone brave enough to take on the challenge. It might never be mounted to a vehicle and driven around the track, but you can still flick through the gears and watch the complex gearing do its thing.
Even if you don’t want to necessarily build the model itself, [Indeterminate Design] takes you through the concepts behind this unique transmission and how it differs from the sort of gearboxes us lowly commuter drivers are familiar with. He’s even nice enough to explain what a dogbox is.
Put simply, this type of transmission allows the driver to simply move the gear change forward and backwards to step through the gears like in a video game. This prevents you from having to navigate an H-pattern gear shift while dealing with all the other stresses of competition driving. Watching it in action, you can certainly see the appeal.
If you prefer your printed gearboxes to be of the practical variety, we’ve certainly seen plenty of those as well. They’re perfect for next time you need to move an anvil around the shop.
Drivers with a lead foot more often than not have Waze open on their phone so they can see if other drivers have spotted cops up ahead. But avoiding a speeding ticket used to involve a lot more hardware than software. Back before the smartphone revolution, that same driver would have had a radar detector on their dashboard. That’s not to say the gadgets are completely unused today, but between their relatively high cost (one of the top rated models on Amazon as of this writing costs over $300) and the inevitable false positives from so many vehicles on the road having their own radar and LIDAR systems, they’ve certainly become a less common sight over the years
The subject of today’s teardown is a perfect example of “Peak Radar Detector”. Manufactured back in 2007, the Cobra XRS 9740 would have been a fairly mid-range entry offering the sort of features that would have been desirable at the time. Over a decade ago, having an alphanumeric display, voice alerts, and a digital compass were all things worth shouting about on the box the thing was sold in. Though looking like some kind of Cardassian warship was apparently just an added bonus.
As the name implies these devices are primarily for detecting radar activity, but by this point they’d also been expanded to pick up infrared lasers and the strobe beacons on emergency vehicles. But false positives were always a problem, so the device allows the user to select which signals it should be on the lookout for. If you were getting some kind of interference that convinced the detector it was being bombarded with IR lasers, you could just turn that function off without having to pull the plug entirely.
But it’s important to remember that this device was built back when people were still unironically carrying around flip phones. Detecting laser and multi-band radars might sound like something pulled from the spec sheet of a stealth fighter jet, but this is still a piece of consumer electronics from more than a decade in the past. So let’s crack it open and take a look at what goes on inside a radar detector that’s only a few years away from being old enough to get its own driver’s license.
Takata Corporation has become well known as a lesson in product safety, thanks to their deadly airbags which were installed in cars worldwide. Despite filing for bankruptcy in 2017, their shadow lingers on as the biggest product recall in history continues to grow ever larger. Over time, the story grows deeper, as investigators find new causes for concern and deaths continue to mount.
In addition to driving home the need for Steadicam or Optical Image Stabilization, this eighty-year-old video illustrates some elegant solutions the automotive industry developed in their suspension systems. Specifically, this Chevrolet video from 1938 is aimed at an audience that values science and therefore the reel boils down the problem at hand using models that will remind you of physics class.
The problem is uneven ground — the “waves in the Earth’s surface” — be it the terrain in an open field, a dirt road, or even a paved parkway. Any vehicle traveling those surfaces will face the challenge of not only cushioning for rough terrain, but accounting for the way a suspension system itself reacts to avoid oscillation and other negative effects. In the video this is boiled down to a 2-dimensional waveform drawn by a model which begins with a single tire and evolves to include a four wheeled vehicle with different suspension systems in the front and the rear.
Perhaps the most illuminating part of the video is the explanation of how the car’s front suspension actually works. The wheels need to be able to steer the vehicle, while the suspension must also allow the tire to remain perpendicular to the roadway. This is shown in the image at the top of this article. Each wheel has a swing arm that allows for steering and for vertical movement of the wheel. A coil spring is used in place of the leaf springs shown in the initial model.
You probably know what’s coming next. The springs are capable of storing and releasing energy, and left to their own devices, they’ll dissipate the energy of a bump by oscillating. This is exactly what we don’t want. The solution is to add shock absorbers which limit how the springs perform. The waveforms drawn by the model encountering bumps are now tightly constrained to the baseline of flat ground.
This is the type of advertising we can wholeheartedly get behind. Product engineers of the world, please try to convince your marketing colleagues to show us the insides, tell us why the choices were made, and share the testing that helps users understand both how the thing works and why it was built that way. The last eighty years have brought myriad layers of complexity to most of the products that surround us, but human nature hasn’t changed; people are still quite curious to see the scientific principles in action all around us.
Make sure you don’t bomb out of the video before the very end. A true bit of showmanship, the desktop model of a car is recreated in a full-sized Chevy, complete with “sky-writing smoke” to draw the line. I don’t think it’s a true analog, but it’s certainly the kind of kitsch I always look for in a great Retrotechtacular subject.
When it comes to creating a handling monster, the aim is to create a car that sticks to the road like glue, and is controllable when it does break loose. Having a car that handles predictably at the limit is a big help when you’re pushing hard on track, particularly for an inexperienced driver. And, whether you’re hitting the canyons on the weekend or trying to slash your laptimes, it’s always nice to have more grip. Through selecting the right parts and getting the set up right, it’s possible to hone your car’s cornering ability to make it a rewarding experience to drive fast and hard. Continue reading “How To Get Into Cars: Handling Mods”→
Up until the 1980s or so, a mechanic could check for shorts in a car’s electrical system by looking for sparks while removing the battery terminal with everything turned off in the car. That stopped being possible when cars started getting always-on devices, and as [Kerry Wong] learned, these phantom loads can leave one stranded with a dead battery at the airport after returning from a long trip.
[Kerry]’s solution is simple: a solar trickle charger. Such devices are readily available commercially, of course, and generally consist of a small photovoltaic array that sits on the dashboard and a plug for the lighter socket. But as [Kerry] points out in the video below, most newer model cars no longer have lighter sockets that are wired to work without the ignition being on. So he chose to connect his solar panel directly to the OBD-II port, the spec for which calls for an always-on, fused circuit connected directly to the positive terminal of the vehicle battery. He had to hack together an adapter for the panel’s lighter plug, the insides of which are more than a little scary, and for good measure, he added a Schottky diode to prevent battery discharge through the panel. Even the weak winter sun provides 150 mA or so of trickle charge, and [Kerry] can rest assured his ride will be ready at the end of his trip.
If you’ve got a car built in the last 5 years or so, it’s quite likely it’s started by the push of a button when in the presence of a keyfob. Older vehicles make do with the twist of a key. Of course, starting a car by voice command would be cool, and that’s what [John Forsyth] set out to do.
The build uses a Macbook to handle voice recognition, using its Dictation feature. With a hefty download, it’s capable of doing the task offline, making things easier. The dictated words are passed to a Python script, which searches for words like “start” and “go” as a trigger. When an appropriate command is received, the Python script sends a signal over a USB-serial connection to an attached Arduino. The Arduino then toggles a relay connected to the Jeep’s external starter solenoid, starting the vehicle.
As a fan of recent popular films, [John] programmed the system to respond to the command “Jarvis, let’s get things going!”, causing the vehicle to spring into life. There’s room for future improvement, too – the system could benefit from being a little more compact, and there’s a long delay between finishing the sentence and the vehicle starting. A Raspberry Pi and faster dictation software could likely help in this regard.