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  • PC controlled starter solenoid? Possible?

    I'm fairly new here, I hope this is in the right place. I've been browsing the forums a good bit poking around (read i've searched) looking for a way to control the engine start via in-car computer.

    I'm farily certain its possible, based on my very limited knowledge of actual automotive engineering. I know that voltage is passed through the solenoid on the starter to start the car. I know that there are keychain remote-starters.

    So my question is, how would you create a device that takes input (a click/button press) from the computer and transfers that to voltage to the solenoid? I'm not much of a hardware guy, and even less a car guy, so I turn to you all for advice.

    My ultimate idea is to have a thumbprint scanner start the car, with the option of entering a code on the keypad for valets, and mechanics/etc. I confident that I could handle the software part, its mostly the hardware end that I need help with.

    Since this is really a far-out idea, I mostly pose the question for discussion purposes. I'm aware that even if possible, its probably not all that smart to put the ignition of your car in the hands of windows... Just think it would be damn cool!

  • #2
    http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/show...=relay+control
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    • #3
      Thanks for the response, I didn't really think to search on 'relay control', I was mostly looking at starter/solenoid specific terms.

      Do you have any thoughts on the project? Other than the lack of windows reliability (and perhaps boot-up time), are there other reasons to keep the key rather than go to a PC controlled option?

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      • #4
        what it someone steals the pc
        -- WireSix, Inc. --
        MP3Car Lives Here!

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        • #5
          what if starting it from the PC is optional?
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          • #6
            a couple of big things about having the computer control the starter:

            first, when the PC boots, all the relays will come on, then go off, then come back on until you turn them off. If you have this connected to your starter, that is BAD.

            Second, you must ensure that the computer will "survive the crank" which means either installing a second battery or a tank circuit.

            Third, you will still have to put your key in to unlock the steering column.

            So, whilst this seems like a cool idea, its not really practical.
            Debt as of 1/1/05: $34,354.48
            Debt as of July 4, 2007: $0.00 explanation
            I'M DEBT FREE!!
            I'm now a reasonably successful gunblogger.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by wizardPC
              a couple of big things about having the computer control the starter:

              first, when the PC boots, all the relays will come on, then go off, then come back on until you turn them off. If you have this connected to your starter, that is BAD.

              Second, you must ensure that the computer will "survive the crank" which means either installing a second battery or a tank circuit.

              Third, you will still have to put your key in to unlock the steering column.

              So, whilst this seems like a cool idea, its not really practical.
              Well how about having the PC trigger a preinstalled remote starter then? You would still have to worry about surviving the crank, but then you could get around the steering column lock. When all's said and done however, there isn't much practicality to having the PC start the car. That's putting the cart before the horse.
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              • #8
                Thanks Wiz, valid points. I've known that this wasn't a particularly smart idea, but the coolness factor of it makes it seem worth persuing.

                The second option:
                Remove the ignition switch and locking mechanism from the steering column.
                Add in a push-button to 'start' the starter, which is in active until identification is verified (fingerprint/passcode)

                Option 2 seriously reduces the headache of this project, though the extra step isn't quite as cool, probably is necessary, even if only because sometimes it takes 2 seconds of cranking to start, and sometimes it takes 5 seconds. With a push button, you can hold until the car is started..

                On the topic of tank circuits/extra batteries, I was under the impression that a dc/dc PSU solved that problem? Did I mis-read that someplace? A second battery doesn't seem all that difficult, and perhaps would allow my other idea (lots of ideas, very little common sense = me), which is to have the PC hibernate (i've read the issues with hibernate, and experienced them in my home PC) for 12-24 hours between starts, unless manually shut down. But thats a topic for another thread.

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                • #9
                  deadweasel, there are a couple of points to this for me.
                  Number one is to get rid of keys all together. At the moment, my 1 car key is the only thing I have to carry. My house has a combination plate, my office is a key card that lives happily in my wallet (don't even have to take my wallet out to open the door).

                  My car doors have a keypad, so no need for a key there, and my trunk (boot) pops from inside the car, so no real need for a key for that.

                  The second is purely the coolness factor, which I evidently think is much higher than the people who've replied to this thread. (I often think things are much cooler than other people though, the joys of living in my own little world).

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by deadweasel
                    Well how about having the PC trigger a preinstalled remote starter then? You would still have to worry about surviving the crank, but then you could get around the steering column lock. When all's said and done however, there isn't much practicality to having the PC start the car. That's putting the cart before the horse.
                    the steering column lock is the mechanical (not electrical) part for needing the key. You can start the car without the key in the ignition (read hotwire), but you cant turn the wheel. That is the steering column lock.

                    To have the computer start the car you need at a minimum 2 relays on the card--one to make the car think that the key is in the "on" position (which powers on the fuel pump, accessories, etc) and one for the starter.

                    The first relay controls 2 other relays (get some instructions for a remote start car alarm to understand this fully) and is on as long as the car is running. Cut that one off and the car turns off.

                    The second one needs to stay on just long enough to start the car, and immediately turn off. This presents the biggest problem, because if the car battery has a low charge then the relay wont activate long enough to start the car. If you lengthen the time the relay is on, then if the battery is fully charged the starter will be on too long, which can cause damage over time.

                    The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to set up one of the computer relays to control power to the fuel pump. tis a long, drawn out explanation of exactly how I would go about doing that, and I think I have said too much for one post
                    Debt as of 1/1/05: $34,354.48
                    Debt as of July 4, 2007: $0.00 explanation
                    I'M DEBT FREE!!
                    I'm now a reasonably successful gunblogger.

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                    • #11
                      I'm suprised Cproaudio hasn't spoken up. DO a search for his posts and check out his rig (it's linked to in his signature). Using a clifford alarm allong with the clifford wizzard interface he can start the car with the PC. I'm working on a similar setup (my end goal is a remote control of sorts via my Tungsten)

                      Regarding this as means to start your car... The locking mechanism in the steeringwheel can be disabled without too much trouble. Still, sounds kind of stupid to me
                      car computer rev 5: 8" lilliput and usual suspects

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                      • #12
                        In the middle of my replying this afternoon, my home PC running XP Pro froze up and blue screened and went to memory dump. Then I started thinking why in the hell would you wanna trust Windows to start your car? If you have windows to do your critical tasks, you're creating a death trap. I wouldnt even trust Windows to control my AC and my lights let along engine starting and running. Just think that while driving at 80MPH and your computer freezes up and all the relays in the control module lock up to the last position. When you reboot the PC, the relays will also reset. That's like driving at 80 MPH and turn off the ignition and wait 30sec to 2 minutes for the PC to reboot. You have no steering cuz the steering lock would be controlled by Windows, no ignition means no engine running therefore diffecult steering and braking. Besides its not all it cracked up to be.

                        During the Nov LA meet, I started my truck with my laptop standing outside of my truck and no one seems to be amazed by it. Everyone I've shown it to (besides the meet) looked at me like I should be hanged for making this idea possible. Anyway the cool factor is very high but it's not worth it for everyday use. If you absolutly have to have secured keyless starting and operating of your vehicle, you gonna have to build something that doesnt run on Windows and strictly hardware based.

                        To answer your original question, yes it is very possible to have your PC to start your car. There are several ways to do it. It'd be so long that I would have to write a book about them. No time for that.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by cproaudio
                          In the middle of my replying this afternoon, my home PC running XP Pro froze up and blue screened and went to memory dump. Then I started thinking why in the hell would you wanna trust Windows to start your car? If you have windows to do your critical tasks, you're creating a death trap.
                          Not only why would _you_ want to trust a computer for all this, but think of all the other poor suckers on the road you're gonna wipe out when your car starts misbehaving.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by wizardPC
                            the steering column lock is the mechanical (not electrical) part for needing the key. You can start the car without the key in the ignition (read hotwire), but you cant turn the wheel. That is the steering column lock.

                            To have the computer start the car you need at a minimum 2 relays on the card--one to make the car think that the key is in the "on" position (which powers on the fuel pump, accessories, etc) and one for the starter.

                            The first relay controls 2 other relays (get some instructions for a remote start car alarm to understand this fully) and is on as long as the car is running. Cut that one off and the car turns off.

                            The second one needs to stay on just long enough to start the car, and immediately turn off. This presents the biggest problem, because if the car battery has a low charge then the relay wont activate long enough to start the car. If you lengthen the time the relay is on, then if the battery is fully charged the starter will be on too long, which can cause damage over time.

                            The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to set up one of the computer relays to control power to the fuel pump. tis a long, drawn out explanation of exactly how I would go about doing that, and I think I have said too much for one post
                            Well I wasn't suggesting a remote start system to get around the column lock. The ONLY way to get around that is to break it (read: bye bye theft deterrent). I think as long as the computer is on, and able to run through a crank, it might be cool to have the PC start the car using a security code. In the movie The Transporter, he starts his car by entering a code on a keypad in the console. Granted, some wild wiring would need to be done to make it work effectively, but if it were done with a hard controller instead of a PC, it might be more reliable, and the cool factor goes through the roof.
                            The ALEXIS Project
                            MP3---VIDEO---GPS---REARVIEW---OBD---SKINNING
                            Color Coding :
                            DONE / MOSTLY DONE / BASE FEATURES / WORKING CONCEPT / NO CODE COMPLETED

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                            • #15
                              New Mercedes Benz with IR keys have electronic steering lock. It also has smart start. It starts the vehicle for you. All you have to do is turn the key to the start position for a fraction of a second. The onboard computer cranks the engine until it starts. Unlike conventional cars where you have to hold the key in the start position until the car started. Also someone told me that the top of the line MB S500s will start the car if the key is in your pocket. To start, all you have to do is fasten the seat belt and push the shifter sideways and the car starts up and unlocks the steering wheel for you to drive away.
                              But as I have said before, don't trust Windows to do your critical tasks. A PC takes too long to boot into a working state. Your choice would be to build a control module that will recognize you as a rightful operator and also after verifying you, unlocks the steering wheel.
                              As for turning on the ACC, Ignition and starting, the cheapest would be just install toggle switches and a momentary push button for starting.
                              To begin your project, you have to consider what type of owner recognition method you want as input: fingerprint, security code via keypad, keycard for swiping, Iris Recognition, voice recognition, breathalyzer. Once the system recognizes you're the rightful owner, then you need to have a way to unlock the steering wheel. An actuator would work A LOT better than a solenoid b/c solenoid needs power in order to stay in that position, actuator doesn't.

                              Edit: Forgot to mention that at CES, Metra had a VW that supposely have 2 PCs in it. 1st is to display ALL engine status, almost like OBD-II but they told me it does more than what OBD-II offers. second computer controls the engine starting, ALL electricals (lights, mirrors, windows, locks, wipers, AC, power seats, EVERYTHING you can think of) and it also controls the steering all through a 12.1" touch screen. Now that's a car that all of us need to stay as far away from as possible. I ask them who installed it so I can ask more technical questions. They dont know. They told me that the 2nd PC uses five 8-relay relay control modules that costs $800 each. They dont know what OS it's running. What ****ed me off was that none of those ****ers there knew anything about that freaking car. I was so ****ed that I stormed out of that booth. They're idiots, dumber than the noobs here. No offense
                              NEW complete and updated My project with 100+ pics on 7-4-03
                              If you have a Shuttle FV24 motherboard in perfect working condition for sale, please PM me.

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