In automotive engineering, almost every design choice is a trade-off, like performance versus fuel economy, straight-line speed versus cornering, or strength versus weight. Inspired by controversial technology for the 2020 Formula 1 season, [Wesley Kagan] is fitting his DIY racing car with actuators to change the suspension geometry while driving.
The controversial technology in question is Mercedes’ DAS (Dual Axis Steering). By pushing the steering wheel in and out, the driver and change the wheel alignment to toe-out (wheels pointing outwards) for better cornering stability, or neutral for the straight sections.
Like many racing cars, [Wesley] used A-arm suspension on his racing car. By replacing the top arms with telescoping tubes with mounted actuators, the geometry can be actively adjusted. For this proof of concept, he used linear actuators but plans to move to a hydraulic system for improved speed and force. The length of the A-arms is sensed with ultrasonic sensors, while a potentiometer senses the suspension position.
Tuning the software for optimum performance will probably require some track testing which we hope to see in the future. This is not the first time [Wesley] has taken inspiration from a multimillion-dollar project and implemented it in his garage. Just check out how he converted a Miata and a Harbor Freight engine to a Free Valve system.
We’ve seen several so-called “digital dash” upgrades over the years that either augment, or completely replace, a vehicle’s original dashboard indicators with new displays. Whether its seven segment LEDs or a full-on graphical interface powered by the Raspberry Pi, the end result is the same: a dashboard that looks wildly different than it did when the car rolled off the assembly line.
But this LED dashboard project from [Flyin’ Miata] takes a slightly different approach. Rather than replace the analog gauges entirely, rings of RGB LEDs of the same diameter were placed behind their matte black faces. When the LEDs are off you’d never notice them, but once they kick on, the light is clearly visible through the material.
So far, it looks like most of the work seems to have been put into the tachometer. The firmware running on the CAN equipped Adafruit Feather M4 can do things such as light up a dynamic redline based on current engine temperature. It will also light up the LEDs to follow the analog gauge as it moves around, which might not have much practical application, but certainly looks cool.
On the speedometer side, the LEDs seem to be used primarily as warning indicators. As demonstrated in the video below, the whole gauge can light up bright red to indicate a critical situation such as low oil pressure. If you wanted to, the system could also be configured with different colors corresponding to various possible fault conditions.
[Florian] and his engineering team at Munich-based bmc::labs has developed a clever set of prototyping boards for vehicle hacking and rapid product development, collectively called the bmc::board or bmc::mini. These stackable development boards were initially designed for in-house use. The team took a general purpose approach to the design so the boards could be used across a wide range of projects, and they should be useful to anyone in the field. [Florian] decided to release the boards to the community as open-source and certified by OSHWA (Open Source Hardware Association).
There are four boards currently defined, with several more in the works:
mini::base — Main microcontroller board, STM32F103-based
mini::out — I/O board with CAN bus, JTAG, etc.
mini:: grid — RF board providing GPS and GSM capability
mini::pit — local wireless connectivity, WiFi and Bluetooth, and 2nd CAN bus
At 54 x 42.5 mm, these boards are pretty small; a form-factor they describe as “exactly half a credit card”. We like the Wurth WR-MM family of stacking connectors they are using, and the symmetrical pinout means you can rotate the cards as needed. But at first glance, these thru-hole connectors seem to limit the stack to just two boards, although maybe they plan move to an SMT flavor of the connector in future designs permitting taller stacks.
If you’re into vehicle electronics and/or vehicle hacking, definitely take a look at these. You can check out [Florian]’s bmc::board Hackaday.io project page and the team’s GitHub repository for more details. Here’s another project by team member [Sebastian] using one of the future bmc::bike modules to eavesdrop on ECU communications, where he sensibly advises the reader “First, pull over and get off the bike. Never hack a two-wheeled vehicle while riding it!”.
Plenty of development is ongoing in the world of lithium batteries for use in electric vehicles. Automakers are scrapping for every little percentage gain to add a few miles of range over their competitors, with efforts to reduce charging times just as frantic as well.
Whether gasoline, diesel, or electric, automakers work hard to wring every last drop of mileage out of their vehicles. Much of this effort goes towards optimising aerodynamics. The reduction of drag is a major focus for engineers working on the latest high-efficiency models, and has spawned a multitude of innovative designs over the years. We’ll take a look at why reducing drag is so important, and at some of the unique vehicles that have been spawned from these streamlining efforts.
In 2014, Formula 1 switched away from V8 engines, electing instead to mandate all teams race with turbocharged V6 engines of 1.6 litres displacement, fitted with advanced energy recovery systems. The aim was to return Formula 1 to having some vague notion of relevance to modern road car technologies, with a strong focus on efficiency. This was achieved by mandating maximum fuel consumption for races, as well as placing a heavy emphasis on hybrid technology.
Since then, Mercedes have dominated the field in what is now known as the turbo-hybrid era. The German team has taken home every drivers and constructors championship since, often taking home the crown well before the season is over. Much has been made of the team’s engine as a key part of this dominance, widely considered to be more powerful and efficient than the competition at all but a few select races in the last seven years, and much of the credit goes to the company’s innovative split-turbo system. Today, we’ll explore why the innovation was such a game changer in Formula 1.