Three Engines for Every Lada

If you don’t live in a former Eastern Bloc country, odds are that you’ve never seen a Lada driving around your neighborhood. This car is ubiquitous in Russia and its neighboring countries, though, and for good reason: price. Lada gave many people access to affordable transportation who otherwise would have been walking, but this low price means that it’s a great platform for some excellent car hacks as well.

The guys at [Garage 54], an auto shop in Russia, outfitted one of these discount classics with two extra engines. This goes beyond normal bolt-on modifications you typically see to get modest horsepower gains from a daily driver. The crew had to weld a frame extending out of the front of the car to hold all the extra weight, plus fabricate all the parts needed to get the crankshafts on each engine to connect to each other. After that, it was the “simple” job of tuning the engines to all behave with one another.

This video is really worth watching, as the car was also upgraded with a dually setup on the back with studded tires for extra grip on their ice track. Odds are pretty good that this car isn’t street legal so this is likely the only place they’ll be able to drive it. Other things can be built out of Ladas as well, like lawn mowers for example.

Thanks to [g_alan_e] for the tip!

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Model Car Indicates Door Is Ajar

The amount of technology in modern cars is truly staggering. Heated seats, keyless entry, and arrays of helpful cameras are all becoming increasingly common in all but the cheapest of models. [mathisox] drives a slightly older Volkswagen van, which has been converted into a camper. Unfortunately, it lacks a proper door ajar display. Nevermind that, though – there’s a charming solution to this problem.

Rather than stick to the automotive standard of boring indicator lights and low-resolution LCD displays, [mathisox] took a more analogous approach. A small model car matching his van was sourced and quickly gutted for the project. It was then fitted with servos to open and close the doors and rear hatch. The servos are controlled by an Arduino Nano, which reads the door switches in the vehicle and actuates the appropriate parts on the model.

With the model car stuck prominently on the dashboard, it serves as a clear visual indicator of the current status of the vehicle’s doors. It’s far less intrusive than those old Chryslers which repeatedly insisted that a door is a jar.

[Thanks to Raffael for the tip!]

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Car Alarm Hacks 3 Million Vehicles

Pen testing isn’t about evaluating inks. It is short for penetration testing — someone ensuring a system’s security by trying to break in or otherwise attack it. A company called Pen Test Partners made the news last week by announcing that high-end car alarm systems made by several vendors have a critical security flaw that could make the vehicles less secure. They claim about three million vehicles are affected.

The video below shows how alarms from Viper/Clifford and Pandora have a simple way to hijack the application. Once they have access, they can find the car in real time, control the door locks, and start or stop the car engine. They speculate a hacker could set off the alarm from a nearby chase car. You’d probably pull over if your alarm started going off. They can then lock you in your car, approach, and then force you out of the car.

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Does Tesla’s Autosteer Make Cars Less Safe?

In 2016, a Tesla Model S T-boned a tractor trailer at full speed, killing its lone passenger instantly. It was running in Autosteer mode at the time, and neither the driver nor the car’s automatic braking system reacted before the crash. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated the incident, requested data from Tesla related to Autosteer safety, and eventually concluded that there wasn’t a safety-related defect in the vehicle’s design (PDF report).

But the NHTSA report went a step further. Based on the data that Tesla provided them, they noted that since the addition of Autosteer to Tesla’s confusingly named “Autopilot” suite of functions, the rate of crashes severe enough to deploy airbags declined by 40%. That’s a fantastic result.

Because it was so spectacular, a private company with a history of investigating automotive safety wanted to have a look at the data. The NHTSA refused because Tesla claimed that the data was a trade secret, so Quality Control Systems (QCS) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to get the data on which the report was based. Nearly two years later, QCS eventually won.

Looking into the data, QCS concluded that crashes may have actually increased by as much as 60% on the addition of Autosteer, or maybe not at all. Anyway, the data provided the NHTSA was not sufficient, and had bizarre omissions, and the NHTSA has since retracted their safety claim. How did this NHTSA one-eighty happen? Can we learn anything from the report? And how does this all align with Tesla’s claim of better-than-average safety line up? We’ll dig into the numbers below.

But if nothing else, Tesla’s dramatic reversal of fortune should highlight the need for transparency in the safety numbers of self-driving and other advanced car technologies, something we’ve been calling for for years now.

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Mustang Dash Becomes Bookshelf Art Piece

Despite most of the common gauges remaining the same over the last 60 years, the automotive dashboard of days past used very different technology to those today. Cable driven speedometers were common, along with mechanical drive for the odometer, too. Fuel and temperature gauges were often wired directly to their senders, and some oil pressure gauges actually ran an oil line right up to the back of the dash. Now, things are mostly handled over the CAN bus, which inspired [Thomas]’s bookshelf-based Mustang build.

The idea behind the project is to build a nice piece of bookshelf art, using a modern CAN-driven Mustang dashboard. Through research and much trial and error, [Thomas] was able to figure out the CAN messages necessary to interface with a 2009 Mustang dashboard. There were innumerable hiccups along the way – [Thomas] had to 3D print his own connectors, reflash CAN bus interfaces, and make more than a few educated guesses to get things working.

The dash is combined with an Arduino with an MP3 shield and a 30 watt audio system, which provides both CAN signals to drive the dash as well as the obligatory sound effects of a Mustang tearing about town. It’s all finished up with an ignition keyswitch and 3 LED-lit buttons in the traditional Mustang colors.

It’s a fun build which does a great job of showcasing the basic tools and techniques required to interface with modern automotive subsystems. Salvaging an instrument cluster can be a great way to add immersion to your home racing sim, too. Video after the break.

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When Will Our Cars Finally Speak the Same Language? DSRC for Vehicles

At the turn of the 21st century, it became pretty clear that even our cars wouldn’t escape the Digital Revolution. Years before anyone even uttered the term “smartphone”, it seemed obvious that automobiles would not only become increasingly computer-laden, but they’d need a way to communicate with each other and the world around them. After all, the potential gains would be enormous. Imagine if all the cars on the road could tell what their peers were doing?

Forget about rear-end collisions; a car slamming on the brakes would broadcast its intention to stop and trigger a response in the vehicle behind it before the human occupants even realized what was happening. On the highway, vehicles could synchronize their cruise control systems, creating “flocks” of cars that moved in unison and maintained a safe distance from each other. You’d never need to stop to pay a toll, as your vehicle’s computer would communicate with the toll booth and deduct the money directly from your bank account. All of this, and more, would one day be possible. But only if a special low-latency vehicle to vehicle communication protocol could be developed, and only if it was mandated that all new cars integrate the technology.

Except of course, that never happened. While modern cars are brimming with sensors and computing power just as predicted, they operate in isolation from the other vehicles on the road. Despite this, a well-equipped car rolling off the lot today is capable of all the tricks promised to us by car magazines circa 1998, and some that even the most breathless of publications would have considered too fantastic to publish. Faced with the challenge of building increasingly “smart” vehicles, manufacturers developed their own individual approaches that don’t rely on an omnipresent vehicle to vehicle communication network. The automotive industry has embraced technology like radar, LiDAR, and computer vision, things which back in the 1990s would have been tantamount to saying cars in the future would avoid traffic jams by simply flying over them.

In light of all these advancements, you might be surprised to find that the seemingly antiquated concept of vehicle to vehicle communication originally proposed decades ago hasn’t gone the way of the cassette tape. There’s still a push to implement Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC), a WiFi-derived protocol designed specifically for automotive applications which at this point has been a work in progress for over 20 years. Supporters believe DSRC still holds promise for reducing accidents, but opponents believe it’s a technology which has been superseded by more capable systems. To complicate matters, a valuable section of the radio spectrum reserved for DSRC by the Federal Communications Commission all the way back in 1999 still remains all but unused. So what exactly does DSRC offer, and do we really still need it as we approach the era of “self-driving” cars?

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Honda Key Fob Turned CNC Work of Art

Now that nearly every car on the road comes with an electronic key fob, people are desperate to find ways to repair these indispensable little gadgets without coughing up potentially hundreds of dollars at the dealership. There’s a whole market for replacement shells which you can transplant your (hopefully) still functional electronics into, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of putting the electronics into a new case, why not make it special?

That’s what [Michicanery] was thinking when he decided to build his own custom key fob. The end result is an utterly magnificent feat of engineering that’s sure to be a conversation for the life of the vehicle, if not beyond. Made of wood and aluminum cut on his OpenBuilds Lead CNC 1010, this build just might inspire you to “accidentally” drop your existing fob from a great height. Oh no, what a shame.

[Michicanery] starts by disassembling his original fob, which is the type that has a key integrated directly into the device. This meant his replacement would need a bit more thought put into it than a separate stand-alone fob, but at least it wasn’t one of the ones where you have to stick the whole thing into the dashboard. To make sure the build was strong enough to survive a lifetime of being turned in the ignition and generally fiddled with, he cut the central frame and buttons out of 1/4″ thick aluminum.

The top and bottom of the fob were then cut from Chechen wood and then chamfered on a table router so it felt a bit better in the hand. He applied oil to the pieces to bring out the natural color and grain of the wood, but not before engraving his own logo onto the back of the case for that extra touch of personalization. Not that we think [Michicanery] is going to have trouble identifying his keys from this point on.

Like the incredible watch cases we’ve seen recently, this is a perfect example of an everyday object getting a new lease on life as a bespoke creation thanks to a custom built enclosure. Granted we’re not sure Honda key fobs have quite the heirloom potential of a good watch, but we’d still prefer it over the black plastic original.

[via /r/DIY]