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Thread: Links to Virtual Instrument Cluster projects?

  1. #1
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    Links to Virtual Instrument Cluster projects?

    I've been pouring through dozens and dozens of posts and finding almost nothing on this subject. I'm not sure what the current terminology is for this sort of thing:

    • Virtual Instrument Cluster
    • Virtual Cluster
    • Virtual Guages

    etc.

    I am NOT talking about OBD-II diagnostics or any software run in diagnostic mode. Instead, I mean full time, software-based gauges running on one or more small LCD displays to replace your existing mechanical or VFD cluster. Since much of the data needed for a virtual instrument cluster is available from the OBD-II interface I thought this would be a good place to pose this question.

    It seems many people are interested in this subject and would love to build their own software-based cluster, but the technology has not quite caught up to the concept. I envisioned a reconfigurable, software based system way back in 1991 and did my college engineering project on this concept, but it was just a pipe dream back then. The technology today, however, seems to almost be there to make this a reality.

    Many companies and individuals have been researching proprietary solutions for years. Embedded apps are most often based on C and require a lot of effort to program the graphics. All this to save memory and make an app with a very small footprint so it can run efficiently on the cheapest possible hardware. But all that ceases to be a concern if a full-blown PC is running a Windows-based app, and with the advent of Car PCs this is now possible.

    I am interested in developing a gauge application that can be built in VB.NET, perhaps open source, with graphics generated in Flash. This gives the most flexibility and ease of customization. The challenges remaining today are the need for "instant on" capability, reliable performance (if it hangs or crashes while driving, that's not very safe!), and the need to drive two or three small displays to fit in the small space available in most dashboards. A regular full VGA or XGA display simply won't fit around a steering column in today's cars.

    For sure we won't be seeing anything like this from any major companies. All they want is something proprietary so they can make a buck. But seeing what folks here are doing with front ends, HVAC/radio/phone integration, and GPS, it seems we enthusiasts have the spirit to make something like this work!

    So, are there any websites out there already devoted to this subject? Has anyone had success with this type of project? I'd love to talk to folks who have done it or want to do this. I've done a lot of research for many years as well as quite a bit of design work and I have a pretty good idea how such a system might be built. I'd love some pointers to existing sites or projects so I don't have to completely reinvent the wheel.

    So, is there anything out there like this today?

    Thanks!!

  2. #2
    It ain't easy being a green moderator meddler's Avatar
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    You might want to talk to Necrolyte on the IRC channel #mp3car on EFnet. He is doing exactly what you are talking about. I have seen some of his work and it looks awesome.
    Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

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    Cool, thanks! Unfortunately I don't do IRC or IM -- I just read the boards and send e-mail. Does he post here on the forums?

    Thanks!

  4. #4
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    I'm not sure if he posts or not. I can definately point him to this thread when I talk to him next.

    Still the best be would be for you to talk to him yourself.
    Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

  5. #5
    Maximum Bitrate wi77iam's Avatar
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    There are already quite a few programs for doing this. Google on "obd virtual dash".

    Here are some:
    DeltaDash by ecutek
    PCMSCAN
    Obd-2 scantool

    Most obd dataloggers come with a program that provides some kind of dashboard dial display for obd data. Most provide dials that look good on a 7 inch indash display. This is easier to do than having lots of small lcds.
    *******************************
    *******************************

  6. #6
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    Yep, I post, and I'm here

    star-art: What I'm currently doing is build a new system for my Kitcar, its based on an old VW Beetle, with the air cooled motor (pre 70's). Obviously this car has no OBD configuration or computer to grab data from, so all of my hardware is being configured and custom made. We're using sending units from Dakota Digital, and feeding them into some hardware to input through the parallel port. This will allow me to grab data and calculate etc to display on my digital gauge panel.

    What I have so far, is a digital panel coded in vb6, using directx8. It WILL be skinnable, for multiple resolutions and applications. I'm waiting on the first skin to come back from a graphic artist friend with the skin.ini file so I can base the code off that.

    So far though, I do have digital gauges displayed on dual monitors (1280x480) with no skins, however the program is at a point where it could be reconfigured to mask in OBD-II as well. I actually have an OBDii device I could probably work in, as I use it in my Ranger with my carPC.

    Here is a couple of screenshots:
    http://mobilecpu.net:8080/installs/i...ftware/ss4.png
    http://mobilecpu.net:8080/installs/i...ftware/ss5.png

    Where the program currently stands, I can share with you guys. Once I build all of the hardware and release a full version, Dakota Digital is interested in buying the package, so I can't release that.

    Let me know! Thanks for the interest

  7. #7
    Variable Bitrate red_parchel's Avatar
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    necrolyte, awesome work, that looks really good [very 31337] if it can/will be "ported" to use the obdii interface i would certainally [along with MANY others] be interested in the program .. and the dual screen idea is great, that way you could span them across 2 7"lcds to replace your cluser and still be able to read it if you wanted
    MobileThree: in car - Zotac Atom/ION - linuxICE 2.0.2

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by red_parchel
    you could span them across 2 7"lcds to replace your cluser and still be able to read it if you wanted
    that is his plan.
    Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

  9. #9
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    Glad to see someone working on this! I knew some projects had to be out there. I have seen the OBDII programs and they are not what I had in mind at all.

    It sounds like you are having to build quite a bit of hardware to make this work which is not surprising. If you are spanning two 7-inch displays, are you doing this by invoking the Windows multiple monitor support? How fast can your system boot to get your cluster working?

    I think the software side of all this will be the easiest hurdle to overcome once a platform has been selected. With VB it is not as hard as coding in native C. With VB + Flash it gets even easier. I am both an artist and an engineer so I can create graphics and the programming is fun for me at the same time.

    Unfortunately, I can't use huge 7-inch displays. There simply isn't room in the instrument cluster area. If you factor in the steering column and wheel, you are left with somewhat of a "U-shaped" viewing area that must wrap around the column. The only way to fill this area and maximize available space is to use three small LCD displays, each running less than 640 X 480. It seems like this will require some sort of special hardware configuration. At this point I have no idea how to drive them.

    Things would certainly get easier by using larger displays! But how many people out there could actually install those in their vehicles?

  10. #10
    Low Bitrate Mcnovy's Avatar
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    but does the obdII speedo's work real time, or are they updated like every second or something like that..?
    Sorry for the english

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