Turn Your Car Into A Simulator

Video games, while entertaining to be sure, are a great way to experience things that could not easily be recreated in real life. Shooting aliens on a giant ring in space is an obvious example, but there are some more realistic examples that video games make much more accessible, such as driving a race car. You can make that experience as realistic as you want, too, and can even go as far as using a real car as your controller.

All modern cars use a communication system to allow their various modules to talk to one another. Fuel injection, throttle position, pedal positions, steering wheel angle, and climate control systems can all communicate on the CAN bus, and by tapping into that information the car can be used as a controller for a video game. Once you plug in to the OBD-II port on a car, you’ll need a piece of software to decode all of that information. [Andrew] uses uinput, a tool that allows Linux machines to take any input signal and map it in any way that can be programmed.

The build also includes the use of an integrated pico projector, allowing the car to be parked and turned into a simulator at any time. It’s similar to another project which used a Mazda instead of a Chevrolet Volt, but it just goes to show how straightforward it can be to take information from the CAN bus of a modern car.

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Volkswagen eGon Is A Rolling Electric Car Circuit Sculpture

Over the past few decades of evolution, cars have grown to incorporate a mind-boggling number of electric components. From parking distance sensors, to the convenience of power locks and windows, to in-car entertainment systems rivaling home theaters. Normally this interconnected system’s complexity is hidden between exterior sheet metal and interior plastic trim, but a group of students of Volkswagen’s vocational training program decided to show off their internal beauty by building the Volkswagen eGon exhibit.

Seeing a super minimalist Volkswagen electric Golf on the move (short Twitter video embedded below) we are immediately reminded of circuit sculptures. We saw some great projects in our circuit sculpture contest, but the eGon shows what can be done with the resources of a Volkswagen training center. Parts are bolted to the car’s original structure where possible, the rest were held in their representative positions by thin metal tube frames. At this scale, they look just like the brass rods used in small circuit sculptures! Certain component enclosures were replaced with transparent pieces, or had a window cut into them for visibility.

This exhibit was built for IdeenExpo, an event to expose students to science and technology. Showing them what’s under the cover in this “see-through car” with internal components tagged with QR codes pointing them to additional information. The number of electronic modules inside a car is only going to continue rising with the coming wave of electric and/or self-driving cars. Even if the timing of their arrival is debatable, we know we’ll need brain power helping to answer questions we don’t even know to ask yet. The eGon is doing a great job attracting attention and inviting bright young minds to participate.

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Quick And Dirty Immobilizer Hack Lets You Use Cheaper Dumb Keys

Car enthusiasts can find themselves in a pickle if they’re into cars from the 80s and 90s. These vehicles are much beloved by some, but one can find themselves having to fork out immense amounts of money for repairs and out-of-production parts. Once a car passes that 15 year milestone, suddenly manufacturer support can start to dry up. Even just getting a set of keys can be a problem.

Modern cars tend to use a small chip implanted in the key as a security measure. This chip functions similarly to an RFID chip, being energised by the car’s reader when the driver turns the key in the ignition. If the chip returns the right code, the computer allows the car to start. Getting a new key cut and recoded is expensive, particularly on older cars. Naturally though, there’s a way to hack around the problem.

The trick is to perform surgery on an existing good key, to extract the working chip inside. This chip can then be permanently affixed to the immobilizer’s antenna in the steering column. This allows the driver to use any properly cut “dumb” key to start the car, as the chip will always provide the right signal at startup. It takes some finesse to avoid damaging the delicate chip inside and to know where to look – but with a little work, it’s achievable by even the novice hacker.

It’s a simple hack that can save hundreds of dollars, and is a great way to keep your modern classic on the road for cheap. You can always take things a step further though, and CNC yourself a key from scratch if you’re so inclined.

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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A Big, Mean, Inflated Machine

A Jeep is fun offroad, a motorcycle perhaps even more so. Diehard renegades go even further and get about in Unimogs and on snowmobiles. [amazingdiyprojects] might just have topped them all however, with his latest project – the astonishing Inflatable Car.

Despite the name, it’s a vehicle that defies clear definition. Consisting of a lightweight aluminium frame and exposed seat, the construction is almost 100% hacked. PVC fabric is used with advanced adhesive tapes to create inflatable wheels that are 2 meters in diameter. Vacuum cleaners are used to inflate the massive tyres, with custom 3D printed valves to ensure even inflation. Drive is courtesy of four handheld concrete mixers, repurposed for their torquey motors and robust geartrains. Even the user interface is a triumph of found parts – consisting of former cordless drills, used for their PWM hardware and covered in extra switches.

Looking like a moon lander from a strange 1950s version of the future, the machine is impressively nimble for its size. Episode 1 starts with a single wheel hooked up to the inflation gear and a single drive motor. Just a few short months later, episode 7 has the prototype machine crawling out from the confines of the back garden and out into the street. The machine is already impressively fast and capable, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

It’s a build that is truly impressive in its scale, though we’ve come to expect no less from [amazingdiyprojects]. Video after the break.

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Transistor Tester Becomes Car Display

These days, the electronics hobbyist is lucky to have access to a wide range of ready-made modules that enable sensors, screens, and microcontrollers to all be linked up with ease. However, this manner of working generally ends up with a project that becomes more of a PCB salad than a finished product. Oftentimes, it’s possible to find something off the shelf that’s close to your requirements, and repurpose it to work. That’s exactly what [Aaron] did.

[Aaron] wanted to install a display in his classic Jeep to display the time and some basic parameters. A screen and a microcontroller were called for, and a cheap open-source transistor tester had exactly that already. Consisting of an ATmega-328P linked up to an 128 x 64 graphic LCD module, it had most of what [Aaron] needed from the get go.

To repurpose the device, [Aaron] started by swapping the 8 MHz crystal for a 16 MHz one to make it more easily programmable through the Arduino IDE. Then, a custom firmware was written, which communicates with a DS3232 real time clock, temperature and pressure sensors, and also monitors battery voltage. It’s all neatly installed in the vehicle behind a 3D printed faceplate, and the graphic LCD is clear and easy to read – if you speak German.

[Aaron] has helpfully outlined the various online resources that helped with the hack, including the transistor tester schematic. Our very own [Adam Fabio] reviewed these units in 2015.

If you’ve cleverly reused some existing hardware yourself, be sure to let us know on the tip line. Video after the break.

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