August 5 Weekly Open Thread--Dashboard Videogames 2: Revenge of the Stickshift
Consider this your Car Lust virtual chat room, where you can talk about anything that comes to mind.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on visual displays designed to encourage fuel-efficient driving under the unique (until now) title "Dashboard Videogames." According to Wired's "Autopia" blog, Zach Nelson, a junior engineer at Ford, has taken the driving-as-a-game concept a step further.
Mr. Nelson built a shifter knob (using a 3D printer) which contains an Ardurino microcontroller and the "haptic feedback motor" (vibrator) from an XBox controller, and connected it up to an Android tablet, which in turn was synced to the OBD computer in a Mustang with a manual transmission. The knob can be programmed to vibrate as a cue to the driver that it's time to upshift--and since it's programmable, you can set it to vibrate at different engine speeds for different purposes. As the Autopia blog notes, it can be made to vibrate and cue a shift at the most efficient point for fuel economy--think of it as the tactile version of the old Honda CRX HF's upshift light--or, if you're more interested in acceleration, when approaching redline.
This isn't a completely new idea. Airplanes have been equipped with "stick shakers" that give a tactile warning of an imminent stall for decades. GM is already selling Buicks and Cadillacs with a "Safety Alert Seat"--a vibrator in the driver's seat that goes off when one of the active safety systems detects something amiss, like a vehicle in your blind spot.
Can you think of any other potential automotive applications for "haptic feedback motors"?
--Cookie the Dog's Owner