A yellow, three wheeled vehicle with a canopy that opens upward over the body. It looks a little like the cockpit of a jet figher.

Restoring A Vintage German EV

When you think of EVs from the 90s, GM’s EV1 may come to mind, but [bleeptrack] found a more obscure CityEL three wheeler to restore.

This Personal Electric Vehicle (PEV) is no spring chicken, but a new set of LiFePO4 batteries should give its 48 V electrical system a new lease on life. [bleeptrack] shows us through the cockpit of this jet fighter-esque EV and its simple control systems, including a forward and reverse selector and the appreciable kilometers on the odometer.

Modernizing touches for this vehicle include a smart shunt to track the vehicle charge level as an improvement over the wildly unreliable original system and a new DC to DC converter after the original unit failed. These changes really cleaned up the electronics compartment from the original rat’s nest under the seat.

The design of this vehicle has us thinking of the Minimal Motoring Manifesto and how EVs could make cars simpler again.

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Art Exhibit Lets You Hide From Self-Driving Cars

In the discussions about how dangerous self-driving cars are – or aren’t – one thing is sorely missing, and that is an interactive game in which you do your best to not be recognized as a pedestrian and subsequently get run over. Even if this is a somewhat questionable take, there’s something to be said for the interactive display over at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco which has you try to escape the tyranny of machine-vision and get recognized as a crab, traffic cone, or something else that’s not pedestrian-shaped.

Daniel Coppen, one of the artists behind “How (not) to get hit by a self-driving car,” sets up a cone at the exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on March 22, 2024. (Credit: Stephen Council, SFGate)
Daniel Coppen, one of the artists behind “How (not) to get hit by a self-driving car,” sets up a cone at the exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on March 22, 2024. (Credit: Stephen Council, SFGate)

The display ran from March 21st to March 23rd, with [Stephen Council] of SFGate having a swing at the challenge. As can be seen in the above image, he managed to get labelled as ‘fire’ during one attempt while hiding behind a stop sign as he walked the crossing. Other methods include crawling and (ab)using a traffic cone.

Created by [Tomo Kihara] and [Daniel Coppen], it’s intended to be a ‘playful, engaging game installation’. Both creators make it clear that self-driving vehicles which use LIDAR and other advanced detection methods are much harder to fool, but given how many Teslas are on the road using camera-based systems, it’s still worth demonstrating the shortcomings of the technology.

There’s no shortage of debate about whether or not autonomous vehicles are ready to share the roads with human drivers, especially when they exhibit unusual behavior. We’ve already seen protesters attempt to confuse self-driving systems with methods that aren’t far removed from what [Kihara] and [Coppen] have demonstrated here, and it seems likely such antics will only become more common with time.

Ford Patent Wants To Save Internal Combustion

There’s no doubt the venerable internal combustion engine is under fire. A recent patent filing from Ford claims it can dramatically reduce emissions and, if true, the technology might give classic engines a few more years of service life, according to [CarBuzz].

The patent in question centers on improving the evaporative emission system’s performance. The usual evaporative emission system stores fuel fumes in a carbon-filled canister. The canister absorbs fuel vapor when under high pressure. When the engine idles and pressure in the cylinder drops, the canister releases fumes, which are combusted with ordinary fuel/air mixture.

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Infotainment system playing back from USB. (Folkert van Heusden)

Create Virtual USB Sticks With A Raspberry Pi Zero

Playing back music files from USB sticks is a common feature these days, and is built-into the infotainment system in [Folkert van Heusden]’s Opel Astra. Unfortunately such USB playback features often come with a range of limitations on things like audio codecs, and in the case of [Folkert]’s car, a 1000 file limit. This had him looking at an alternative to lugging a lot of USB sticks around to avoid the horror of hearing the same songs within a week while commuting. The solution? Make a Raspberry Pi Zero into a virtual USB mass storage device using the Mass Storage Gadget (MSG) driver in the Linux kernel.

Picking USB storage as the ideal option here comes mostly from the age of the infotainment system, which lacks Bluetooth, and the audio input jack is rather crackly. Of course, having the Raspberry Pi Zero pretend to be a storage device via the MSG driver wouldn’t solve the file limit, but to get around this two Python scripts were written: one which creates images from a folder of music files, and another which randomly picks one of the available images from the Zero’s SD card and configures the MSG driver to use it.

As for the list of future improvements, there is mounting the RPi Zero’s SD card as read-only to deal with the power-off when the car is shut down, and the creating of images requires to be run as root due to the use of loopback devices. As a Proof-of-Concept it does seem to be on the right track.

It’s not just the older infotainment systems that get to have all the fun. If you’re lucky enough to have Linux running in the dashboard, you might be little more than a Bash script away from bending the system to your will.

Extracting SecOC Keys From A 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

With the recently introduced SecOC (Secure Onboard Communication) standard, car manufacturers seek to make the CAN bus networks that form the backbone of modern day cars more secure. This standard adds a MAC (message authentication code) to the CAN messages, which can be used to validate that these messages come from a genuine part of the car, and not from a car thief or some third-party peripheral.

To check that it isn’t possible to circumvent SecOC, [Willem Melching] and [Greg Hogan] got their hands on the power steering (EPS) unit of a Toyota RAV4 Prime, as one of the first cars to implement this new security standard.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime's power steering unit on the examination bench. (Credit: Willem Melching)
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime’s power steering unit on the examination bench. (Credit: Willem Melching)

As noted by [Willem], the ultimate goal is to be able to run the open source driver assistance system openpilot on these SecOC-enabled cars, which would require either breaking SecOC, or following the official method of ‘rekeying’ the SecOC gateway.

After dumping the firmware of the EPS Renesas RH850/P1M-E MCU via a voltage fault injection, the AES-based encryption routines were identified, but no easy exploits found in the main application. This left the bootloader as the next target.

Ultimately they managed to reverse-engineer the bootloader to determine how the update procedure works, which enabled them to upload shellcode. This script then enabled them to extract the SecOC keys from RAM and send these over the CAN bus. With these keys the path is thus opened to allow any device to generate CAN messages with valid SecOC MACs, effectively breaking encryption. Naturally, there are many caveats with this discovery.

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How Much Longer Will Cars Have Cigarette Lighter Ports?

Depending on the age of your car, it might contain a round 12 V power outlet in the dash, or possibly in the elbow compartment. And depending on your own age, you might know that as the cigarette lighter port. Whereas this thing used to have a single purpose — lighting cigars and cigarettes via hot coil — there are myriad uses today, from charging a phone to powering a dash camera to running one of those tire-inflating machines in a roadside emergency.

But how did it come to be a power source inside the vehicle? And how long will it stick around? With smoking on the decline for several decades, fewer and fewer people have the need for a cigarette lighter than do, say, a way to charge their phone. How long will the power source survive in this configuration?

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A black PCB with a cellular modem board piggy backed on top. It has a micro-USB and DB-type connector on the end facing the camera.

Open Vehicle Monitoring System Is The Window To Your EV’s Soul

Electric cars have more widgets than ever, but manufacturers would rather you don’t have direct access to them. The Open Vehicle Monitoring System intends to change that for the user. [via Transport Evolved]

As car manufacturers hoover up user data and require subscriptions for basic features, it can be a frustrating time to make such a big purchase. Begun in 2011, OVMS now interfaces with over a dozen different EVs and gives you access to (or helps you reverse engineer) all the data you could want from your vehicle. Depending on the vehicle, any number of functions can be accessed including remote climate start or cell-level battery statistics.

The hardware connects to your car’s OBDII port and uses an ESP32 microcontroller connected to a  SIMCOM SIM7600G modem (including GPS) to provide support for 3 CAN buses as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. This can be particularly useful for remote access to data for vehicles that can no longer phone home via their originally included cellular modems as older networks shut down.

Do you wish EVs weren’t so complicated? Read our Minimal Motoring Manifesto.