Part of a picture showing all kinds of different CAN devices in a car

CAN Peripheral For RP2040, Courtesy Of PIO

[Kevin O’Connor] writes to us about his project, can2040adding CAN support to the RP2040. The RP2040 doesn’t have a CAN peripheral, but [Kevin] wrote code for the RP2040’s PIO engine that can receive and send CAN packets. Now we can all benefit from his work by using this openly available CAN driver. This library is written in C, so it’s a good fit for the lower-level hackers among us, and in all likelihood, it wouldn’t be hard to make a MicroPython wrapper around it.

The CAN bus needs a peripheral for the messages to be handled properly, and people have been using external chips for this purpose until now. These chips, [Kevin] tells us, have lately been unavailable due to the chip shortage, making this project more valuable. The documentation is extensive and accessible, and [Kevin] details how to best use this driver. With such a tool in hand, you can now turn your Pico into a CAN tinkering toolkit, or wire up some CAN devices for use in your own projects!

[Kevin] says this code is already being used in Klipper, a framework powering 3D printers and other machines like them. As for your own purposes, you can absolutely use such a CAN tool to hack on your car – here’s a treasure trove of car hacking documentation, by the way! Thanks to the PIO engine, there seems to be no end to the RP2040’s versatility – you can even drive HDMI monitor with this PIO-based DVI code.

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The Quadrivium EnsembleBot Is A Labour Of Love

The Quadrivium EnsembleBot project is a mashup between old school musical instruments and the modern MIDI controlled world. Built by a small team over several years, these hand crafted instruments look and sound really nice.

The electronics side of things is taken care of with a pile of Arduinos and off-the-shelf modules, but that doesn’t mean the design isn’t well thought through, if a little more complicated than it could be in places. Control is taken care of with a PC sending commands over the USB to an Arduino 2560. This first Arduino is referred to as the Master Controller and has the immediate job of driving the percussive instruments as well as other instruments that are struck with simple solenoids. All these inductive loads are switched via opto-isolators to keep any noise generated by switching away from the microcontroller. A chain of four sixteen-channel GPIO expander modules are hung off the I2C bus to give even more opto-isolated outputs, as even the Arduino 2560 doesn’t quite have enough GPIO pins available. The are a number of instruments that have more complex control requirements, and these are connected to dedicated slave Arduinos via an SPI-to-CAN module. These are in various states of development, which we’ll be keeping our beady eyes on.

One of the more complex instruments is the PipeDream61 which is their second attempt to build a robotic pipe organ. This is powered by a Teensy, as they considered the Arduino to be a little too tight on resources. This organ has a temperature controller using an ATTiny85, in order to further relieve the main controller of such a burden and simplify the development a little.

Another interesting instrument is Robro, which is a robotic resophonic guitar which as they say is still work in progress despite how long they have been trying to get it to work. There’s clearly a fair bit of control complexity here, which is why it is taking so much fiddling (heh!) to get it work.

This project is by no means unique, lately we’ve covered controlling a church organ with MIDI, as well as a neat Arduino Orchestra, but the EnsembleBot is just so much more.

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Using CanoPy To Visualize The CAN Bus

As cars have become more sophisticated electronically, understanding the CAN bus that forms the backbone of automotive digital systems has become more and more important for hacking cars. Inexpensive microcontroller CAN interfaces have made obtaining the raw CAN bus traffic trivial, but interpreting that traffic can be pretty challenging. In order to more easily visualize CAN traffic, [TJ Bruno] has developed CanoPy, a Python tool for visualizing CAN messages in real time.

A basic PC CAN interface simply dumps the bus’s message traffic into the terminal, while more sophisticated tools organize messages by the address of their intended recipients. Both of these approaches digitally lift the hood and let you examine what your car is thinking, but the wall-of-numbers approach makes finding the patterns that hold the keys to reverse engineering difficult. Automatically plotting the data with CanoPy makes finding correlations much easier, after which the text-based tools can be used to focus in on a few specific addresses.

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Classic Triumph Gets A Modern Digital Dash

Analog gauges gave way to all manner of fancy electroluminescent and LED gauges in the ’80s, but the trend didn’t last long. It’s only in the last decade or so that LCD digital gauges have really started to take off in premium cars. [Josh] is putting a modern engine and drivetrain into his classic Triumph GT6, and realised that he’d have to scrap the classic mechanical gauge setup. After not falling in love with anything off the shelf, he decided to whip up his own solution from scratch.

The heart of the build is a Raspberry Pi 4, which interfaces with the car’s modern aftermarket ECU via CANBUS thanks to the PiCAN3 add-on board. Analog sensors, such as those for oil pressure and coolant temperature, are interfaced with a Teensy 4.0 microcontroller which has the analog to digital converters necessary to do the job. Display is via a 12.3″ super-wide LCD sourced off Aliexpress, with the graphics generated by custom PixiJS code running in Chromium under X.

The result is comparable with digital displays in many other modern automobiles, speaking to [Josh]’s abilities not just as a programmer but a graphic designer, too. As a bonus, if he gets sick of the design, it’s trivial to change the graphics without having to dig into the car’s actual hardware.

Gauge upgrades are common on restomod projects; another route taken is to convert classical mechanical gauges to electronic drive. If you’re cooking up your own sweet set of gauges in the garage, be sure to drop us a line! Video after the break.

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Raspberry Pi Takes Over Volvo’s Integrated LCD

As [Luuk Esselbrugge] explains in a recent blog post, his 2002 Volvo S60 had an optional GPS navigation system and backup camera that used a motorized display that would rise out of the dashboard when needed. His particular car didn’t come with the hardware installed, but after getting his hands on a display module and doing some research, he figured out how he could drive it with the Raspberry Pi and a couple of microcontrollers.

Given the age of the display, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that it uses composite video. Not exactly high resolution, but in the demonstration after the break, we have to admit it looks more than up to the task. [Luuk] is running Android Auto on the Raspberry Pi 3 through the openauto project, which gives him a nice big display and access to all the navigation and media applications you’d expect. The display doesn’t support touch, but thanks to an ESP32 plugged into the CAN bus, he’s able to control the software by reading the buttons built into the Volvo’s steering wheel.

Composite video sources are switched with a simple relay.

To actually raise and lower the display, [Luuk] found you just need to fire a few bytes down the 1,200 baud serial bus that’s built into the display’s wiring harness. The ESP32 handles this duty as well, at least partly because it’s already plugged into the CAN bus and can tell when the vehicle is in reverse. This lets it bring up the screen to show the video feed from the newly installed backup camera in the event that the Pi hadn’t already asked to raise the display. Incidentally plugging in the phone normally triggers the system to wake up and raise the screen, and disconnecting it will command the screen to lower back into the stowed position.

The attentive reader or Volvo aficionado may be wondering how [Luuk] got the audio working. Since his car’s sound system doesn’t feature an auxiliary input, he’s using an Arduino to spoof the existence of a CD changer, which allows him to inject an audio signal into one of the pins on the back of the radio. Eventually he wants to move this task over to the ESP32, but he says a big change like that will have to wait until warmer weather.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Raspberry Pi used to add enhanced features to a somewhat older vehicle. While some bemoan the increased complexity of modern vehicles, it seems some hackers can’t get enough of it.

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Remoticon Video: Learn How To Hack A Car With Amith Reddy

There was a time not too long ago when hacking a car more often than not involved literal hacking. Sheet metal was cut, engine cylinders were bored, and crankshafts were machined to increase piston travel. It was all in the pursuit of milking the last ounce performance out of every drop of gasoline, along with a little personal expression in the form of paint and chrome.

While it’s still possible — and encouraged — to hack cars thus, the inclusion of engine control units and other systems to our rides has created an entirely different universe of car hacking options, which Amith Reddy distilled into his very popular workshop at the 2020 Remoticon. The secret sauce behind all the hacks you can accomplish in today’s drive-by-wire cars is the Controller Area Network (CAN), the network used to connect the array of sensors, actuators, and controllers that lie under the metal and plastic of modern cars.

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USB Adaptor Isolates Multiple Serial Interfaces

You need a Swiss Army knife of serial communications? Ollie is a compact isolated USB adaptor that provides USB, CAN bus, and two UARTs at logic, RS-232, and RS-485 signaling levels, as well as an isolated power supply.  [Slimelec] has managed to squeeze all this into a package the size of a harmonica.  We like the technique of making the enclosure from PCB material, complete with clearly labeled switch, LED and connector pinout names.

So far, only the compiled firmware is available for this project, but hardware files, and presumably the source code and documentation, are coming soon.

The central themes here are  isolation and flexibility. We can’t find the isolation voltage in the project specifications, but the CANable project on which this adaptor is based provides 2.5 kV galvanic isolation.  A single isolated USB interface is also provided over a standard Type A connector. The four-wire logic-level UART signals are available on a 2 x 7 box header, and are voltage selectable.  The RS-232, RS-485, and CAN signals are on an 8-pin pluggable screw terminal block, or you can use a DB9 connector with a pluggable adaptor board.

Whether you need a troubleshooting aid for field testing, are using CAN bus on your projects, or just want to isolate your expensive computer from sketchy prototype hardware, have a look at this project.