Sniffing CAN To Add New Features To A Modern Car

It used to be that there wasn’t a problem on the average car that couldn’t be solved with a nice set of wrenches, a case of beer, and a long weekend. But the modern automobile has more in common with a spaceship than those vintage rides of yesteryear. Bristling with sensors and electronics, we’re at the point that some high-end cars need to go back to the dealer for even minor repairs. It’s a dark time for the neighborhood grease monkey.

But for those of us who are more likely to spend their free time working with a compiler than a carburetor, a modern car can be an absolute wonderland. That’s what [TJ Bruno] found when he recently started experimenting with the CAN bus on his 2017 Chevy Cruze. Not only was he able to decode how the different switches and buttons on the dashboard communicated with the vehicle’s onboard systems, he was able to hack in a forward-looking camera that’s so well integrated you’d swear it was a factory option.

The idea started simple enough: using some relays, [TJ] planned on physically switching the video feed going to the Chevy’s dashboard between the stock rear camera and his aftermarket front camera. That’s all well and good, but the car would still only bring up the video feed when the gear selector was put in reverse; not exactly helpful when he’s trying to inch his way into a tight spot. He needed to find a way to bring up the video display when the car was moving forward.

With a PCAN-USB adapter connected to the car’s OBD-II port, he shifted into and out of reverse a few times and noted which messages got transmitted on the network. It wasn’t long before he isolated the proper message, and when he injected it with his laptop, the dashboard display switched over to the backup camera regardless of what gear the car was in. Building on this success, he eventually figured out how to read the status of all the buttons on the car’s dashboard, and programmed an Arduino to listen for the appropriate signals.

The final piece of the puzzle was combing bringing both of these capabilities, so that went the appropriate button was pressed on the dashboard the Arduino would not only send the signal to turn on the video display, but kick the relays over to switch the camera source. Now [TJ] has a front-facing camera that can be called up without having to kludge together some button or switch that would never match the modern styling of the vehicle’s interior.

A couple years back we saw a similar project to add a backup camera to a Peugeot 207 that was too old to have one from the factory, and more recently we saw how CAN hacking can allow you to fight back when your car’s touch screen interface robs you of simple pleasures like pushing buttons and turning knobs.

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Goodbye Chevy Volt, The Perfect Car For A Future That Never Was

A month ago General Motors announced plans to wind down production of several under-performers. At the forefront of news coverage on this are the consequences facing factories making those cars, and the people who work there. The human factor associated with the closing of these plants is real. But there is also another milestone marked by the cancellation of the Volt. Here at Hackaday, we choose to memorialize the soon-to-be-departed Chevrolet Volt. An obituary buried in corporate euphemisms is a whimper of an end for what was once their technological flagship car of the future.

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Half A Chevy Becomes A Boat Launch

A tired 1990 Chevy Lumina isn’t the platform one would normally pick for a custom build. When you’re drag boat racing team on a budget though, you use what you can get cheap. Normally small boats are launched and landed using a trailer and tow vehicle. [Ashley Ruf’s] team at Little John’s racing is launching her boat “Kwitchabitchin” with a bit more style.

The team started by cutting the Lumina in half. Since the Chevy is a front wheel drive platform, everything behind the driver is more or less along for the ride. The gas tank was relocated, and notched to receive the front of the boat. The team then added a quad tire trailer frame. The frame is connected to the car with a long hydraulic cylinder. When the boat is being launched or landed, the cylinder can extend far enough to get the boat floating.

You might be thinking that there is no way this is street legal, and you’d be right. The Lumina only gets the boat into and out of the water. The boat is then pulled all the way forward using the hydraulics. The boat/car pair is a then perfect fit inside the team’s racing travel trailer.

You can check out a video of the car at work after the break

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Volt Teardown Shows More Than Just What’s Under The Hood

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the top contenders in mass-market electric vehicles. Now you can get a look at the components that make up the electrical system with this Chevy Volt teardown article.

The adventure starts with a look at the 288 cell battery. It forms a T shape and takes up the space that forms the hump down the center of the interior of a vehicle. Theses have a liquid cooling system build into the enclosure to make sure things don’t get too hot during use or charging. The sights are then set on the control and monitoring hardware, and there’s a lot of it. In fact, the image above is an overview of the eighteen modules that pull the new plug-in EV technology together. If you’re brave enough to void the warranty on one of these, this should be a helpful road map to get you started.

Has anyone seen a teardown of the home charging station for one of these?

Engine Hacks: Snow Chucking — Because Snow Blowing Is For Commoners

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Winter’s coming, and you don’t want to be outdone by your neighbor’s new snow blower. We think it’s pretty safe to say you’ll be the envy of gearheads throughout the neighborhood if you can build your own snow blower around a V8 engine. [Kai Grundt] is a metal fabricator by day and a horror movie prop yard implement builder by night. He pulled the engine out of his Chevy truck and then filled in parts around it to make this 412 HP snow blower.

The tank treads that it rides are each have their own dedicated hydraulic pump, making it easy to drive and steer this 800 pound whale. One of the first orders of business for the beast was to throw snow from two houses away, burying his buddy’s car. That’s the price you pay for laughing in a guy’s face when he describes his next project. It sounds like [Kai] was planning on selling kits so you could more easily replicate the build, but we couldn’t find any additional info on that. If you’ve got the details, please let us know by leaving a comment.

[Thanks Danman1453]

Dean Kamen’s Stirling Engine Car

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[Dean Kamen]’s company, the people behind the Segway, have created a hybrid car that uses a Stirling engine instead of a standard internal combustion engine. Stirling engines are closed cycle, meaning heat is applied to the outside of the cylinder walls. They are generally more efficient than standard car engines, but haven’t been used much outside of industrial applications. We suspect that the drivetrain arrangement is similar to the Chevy Volt where the engine is used to charge batteries which are in turn driving an electric motor. This is different from modern hybrids that can have either electric motor or gas engine driving the wheels. The article is unfortunately full of classic [Kamen] hyperbole and minimal detail. He calls the Stirling engine “an insurance policy” for the electric car since it can recharge the battery. That’s right, folks. If you run out of juice, you can put gas in the car. I doubt many Prius owners will fall out of their chair over that. Being a Stirling engine, we’d be more impressed if you could charge the thing by rubbing warm toast on it.

[via Make]