Once upon a time, the automobile was a mostly mechanical beast, but no longer. Advanced electronics have weaved their way into the modern car, from engine to infotainment and climate control to the buttons now sprinkled throughout the passenger cabin. The gains in amenity and efficiency can’t be sniffed at, but it leaves manufacturers reliant on semiconductor suppliers to get cars out the door. Over the past year, it’s become much more complicated — with many automakers having to slow production in the face of integrated circuit shortages that can be traced back to Spring of 2020. Continue reading “Pandemic Chip Shortages Are Shutting Down Automotive Production”
Classic motorcycles are the wild west of information displays. Often lacking even basic instrumentation such as a fuel gauge and sometimes even a speedometer, motorcycles have come a long way in instrument cluster design from even 20 years ago. There’s still some room for improvement, though, and luckily a lot of modern bikes have an ECU module that can be tapped into for some extra information as [mickwheelz] illustrates with his auxiliary motorcycle dashboard.
This display is built for a modern Honda enduro, and is based upon an ESP32 module. The ESP32 is tied directly into the ECU via a diagnostic socket, unlike other similar builds that interface with a CAN bus specifically. It can monitor all of the bike’s activity including engine temperature, throttle position, intake air temperature, and whether or not the bike is in neutral. [mickwheelz] also added an external GPS sensor so the new display can also show him GPS speed and location information within the same unit.
[mickwheelz] credits a few others for making headway into the Honda ECU. [Gonzo] created a similar build using a Raspberry Pi and more rudimentary screen but was instrumental in gathering the information for this build. If you’re looking for a display of any kind for your antique motorcycle which is lacking an ECU, though, we would suggest a speedometer made with nixie tubes.
[Quasse] bought a 1978 Honda NC50 Express moped with the intention of fixing it up and riding it, only to find that the engine was beyond repair. So, they did what any self-respecting hacker would do: tear out the motor and replace it with an electric one. It’s still a work in progress, but they have got it up and running by replacing the engine with a Turnigy SK3 6374 motor, a 192KV motor that [Quasse] calculated should be able to drive the moped at just over 30 miles per hour. Given that this was the top speed that the NC50 could manage on gas power, that’s plenty fast.
Fans of technology will recall a number of years when Honda’s humanoid robot Asimo seemed to be everywhere. In addition to its day job in a research lab, Asimo had a public relations side gig showing everyone that Honda is about more than cars and motorcycles. From trade shows to television programs, even amusement parks and concert halls, Asimo worked a busy publicity schedule. Now a retirement party may be in order, since the research project has reportedly been halted.
Asimo’s activity has tapered off in recent years so this is not a huge surprise. Honda’s official Asimo site itself hasn’t been updated in over a year. Recent humanoid robots in media are more likely to be in context of events like DARPA Robotics Challenge or from companies like Boston Dynamics. Plus the required technology has become accessible enough for us to build our own two-legged robots. So its torch has been passed on, but Asimo would be remembered as the robot who pioneered a lot of thinking into how humanoid robots would interact with flesh and blood humans. It was one of the first robots who could recognize human waving as a gesture, and wave back in return.
Many concepts developed from Asimo will live on as Honda’s research team shift focus to less humanoid form factors. We can see Honda’s new ambitions in their concept video released during CES 2018 (embedded below.) These robots are still designed to live and work alongside people, but now they are specialized to different domains and they travel on wheels. Which is actually a step closer to the Jetsons’ future, because Rosie rolls on wheels!
It may not be the typical fare that we like to feature, but you can’t say this one isn’t a hack. It’s a camp trailer fashioned from the back half of a wrecked Honda Civic, and it’s a pretty unique project.
We don’t know about other parts of the world, but a common “rural American engineering” project is to turn the bed and rear axle of an old pickup truck into a trailer. [monickingbird]’s hacked Civic is similar to these builds, but with much more refinement. Taking advantage of the intact and already appointed passenger compartment of a 1997 Civic that had a really bad day, [monickingbird] started by lopping off as much of the front end as possible. Front fenders, the engine, transmission, and the remains of the front suspension and axle all fell victim to grinder, drill, and air chisel. Once everything in front of the firewall was amputated, the problem of making the trailer safely towable was tackled. Unlike the aforementioned pickup trailers, the Civic lacks a separate frame, so [monickingbird] had to devise a way to persuade the original unibody frame members to accept his custom trailer tongue assembly. Once roadworthy, the aesthetics were tackled — replacing the original interior with a sleeping area, installing electrics and sound, and a nice paint job. Other drivers may think the towing vehicle is being seriously tailgated, but it seems like a comfy and classy way to camp.
Now that the trailer is on the road, what to do with all those spare Civic parts? Sure, there’s eBay, but how about a nice PC case featuring a dashboard gauge cluster?
This week [Geohot] announced the launch of his self-driving car hardware. This is the natural extension of his proof-of-concept shown off in December which he parlayed into a Silicon Valley startup called comma.ai. [Geohot], whose real name is [George Hotz], is well known for jailbreaking the iPhone and making Sony look like idiots when they retroactively crippled Linux support on PS3. He has hardware chops.
Initial self-driving add-on hardware only works with Honda and Acura models that already have lane-keeping assist features because those vehicles already have built-in front radar. The package, which replaces the rear view mirror, adds a front facing camera. Those lucky (or brave, foolish, daring?) beta users can trade $999 and $24/month for what is currently a green 3D printed enclosure with some smartphone-like hardware inserted.
The company has taken an interesting approach to acquiring data needed for this particular flavor of self-driving. [Hotz] is teasing a chance at beta test invites to those who contribute driving data to the company. This is as simple as downloading an app to your phone and letting it roll from your windshield as you go bumper to bumper from Mountain View to San Francisco. That’s right, the plan is to support just that stretch of the nation’s highway system — although [Hotz] did make a brazen estimate of 90% of commutes for 90% of users within a year. Hey, it’s a startup so it’s either that, selling to a bigger fish, or closing their doors.
That narrow route support is actually an interesting constraint. In fact, the company is most interesting because of its chosen constraints: a small subset of cars, a chosen stretch of highway, and dare we say sanity when it comes to self-driving expectations. Grandiose claims have the general public thinking a vehicle with no human driver will slide up to your stoop and take you anywhere you want to go. That is a dauntingly difficult engineering challenge (dare we say impossible). What [Hotz] is selling is a more stress-free commute, not a nap in the back seat. You still need to be paying attention at all times.
Will this system work? Undoubtedly the engineering is possible (Tesla is already doing it). The biggest question mark that remains is human nature. This system demands your attention even though you’re doing nothing. That seems unrealistic — users are bound to lapse in attention much more frequently than if they were the primary driver. The question then becomes, will people pay attention at the very rare yet very crucial moments, and can a system like this prevent more fatal accidents than it causes?
It’s a wonder that drivers are given so little insight into what’s going on under the hood. We mostly have the illusion of insight in the form of gauge, idiot lights, and when things get real, our eyesight and sense of smell. The older a car gets, the more important it is to be aware of the condition of its systems.
[Mjtrinihobby] drives a beat-up 1999 Honda Civic. He likes creating automation systems as a hobby and figured that his car would make an excellent test subject. [Mjtrinihobby] began this project with several features in mind. He wanted more control over several of the car’s systems—the A/C, lights, the fuel level, and the blower motor in the cabin to name a few—and a compact, user-friendly way to interface with them that could handle road shock and the heat of the climate he calls home.
He chose a Windows 8.1 netbook with a touchscreen display for the user interface. The netbook is running FlowStone, which is a robust graphical programming language with a long list of applications. A LabJack data acquisition board (DAQ) handles the communication between the car’s systems and the netbook.
This is much more than just a cool way to control the climate and make the headlights come on when darkness falls. For instance, [Mjtrinihobby]’s system continuously monitors the alternator’s voltage. If it measures between 7 and 12V, a friendly voice warns about possible alternator failure and disables high-draw accessories so the car has a fighting chance of making it to the mechanic.
Be sure to check out the demonstration video after the break. If OBD-II car hacks are more your speed, try building an RGB tachometer.