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Thread: Electronic PRNDL selector possible?

  1. #1
    Variable Bitrate quantum's Avatar
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    Electronic PRNDL selector possible?

    Anybody ever replace an automatic transmission gear selector with an electronic version of some sort?

    I saw this cool pic of a car online (maybe off this site?) with an iDrive-type knob for a gear shift control. I think I have the "mechanicals" ironed out, but the electronics have me a little confused.

    The mechanical part would most likely be a linear actuator of some sort, attached to either the shift cable itself, or even maybe the shifter "stalk". The car has a floor console with floor mounted shift. Attaching it to the cable would be an option. But I think I may be able to do it more simply by leaving the existing shift mechanism in place, hacksawing the stalk down a few inches, and mounting the linear actuator to it. This also would allow me to shift it manually if the actuator or one of the components fails.

    Browsing the web I found these and these. The first one says it is programmable, and I think that means you could move it back and forth a fixed distance based on a signal? That would be a crucial component, precision movement. Correct me of I'm wrong, help understanding this part is what I could use the most.

    Having the whole thing controlled by a PC is SO not an option, since the risk of a PC meltdown or reboot could be annoying at best and deadly at worst. So it would need to be an independant, simple system, perhaps with a redundant system in place.

    What kind of hardware / controller would the knob need to be? I was searching for a controller that would have defined stops (7) and require a little force to turn, more resistance than a volume knob, and less than a fire hydrant.

    Oh, and a nice finishing touch would be tying in a nice alpha numeric gear indicator from Dakota Digital.

    Suggestions? Ideas?
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    Variable Bitrate quantum's Avatar
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    *bump*


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    Well, you can control a linear actuator with either a PIC or something like the Arduino board.

    The PIC has the advantage of being hardware and thus not dependent upon whether the PC is working or not. The Arduino can be programmed from the PC but isn't as compact as the chip.

    A linear actuator is basically a motor with a screwjack in it. Some of them have feedback via a potentiometer. You could measure the resistance of the potentiometer on the Arduino board and have it correspond to the various positions of the gear selector.
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    Variable Bitrate
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    The other, even more reliable option, would be a pot feedback on the linear actuator, a bank of resistors a multiposition switch, and a comparator. Basically, each position of the switch would produce a 'desired' resistance (which is used in a voltage divider). This voltage is compared to a matched divider using the feedback pot on the actuator. If less than, move the actuator one way, if greater than, move it the other way. comparitors would be set up with a slight offset so there is a deadband between pos and neg differences, preventing 'hunting'.

    This is basically turning the linear actuator into a servo, with preselected positions. This is done when building full-sized RC cars (a really fun, but expensive hobby)
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    Variable Bitrate quantum's Avatar
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    Now we're talkin' fellas!!! You think its a cool idea or stupid idea?

    What type of know or rotary controller could be used?

    OK, short of being spoon fed, where can I learn out how to put these various options into play? I never really programmed a PIC or Arduino board before, but would love to study up on it since it looks like it opens some cool doors for this and other projects.

    Is it a software thing, a coding thing? Are there tutorials or even sample code I can download and modify? Samples of projects similar (or not) to this anywhere online?

    Once again, many thanks for guidence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruzer View Post
    I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
    Want to:
    -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
    -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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    Variable Bitrate
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    Quote Originally Posted by quantum View Post
    Now we're talkin' fellas!!! You think its a cool idea or stupid idea?
    Not really stupid, but to be any point, it would really have to have some sort of practical reasoning as well. The only way I would even think about doing this would be to eliminate the space that is wasted by the shifter, in the incredibly important next to leg space. Would have to put a decent compartment, or specialized controls there, or SOMETHING that makes this worth it. In most cars, the actuator could actually be installed below the floorboard, and all that space could be gained.
    Quote Originally Posted by quantum View Post
    What type of know or rotary controller could be used?
    Any rotary multi-position switch would work. You don't really need a 'rotary controller', as you don't care about analog positioning, just 5 discrete positions.
    Quote Originally Posted by quantum View Post
    OK, short of being spoon fed, where can I learn out how to put these various options into play? I never really programmed a PIC or Arduino board before, but would love to study up on it since it looks like it opens some cool doors for this and other projects.

    Is it a software thing, a coding thing? Are there tutorials or even sample code I can download and modify? Samples of projects similar (or not) to this anywhere online?

    Once again, many thanks for guidence.
    I would be careful getting in over your head on something as important as the gear shift. This is something that really should be very well engineered, and you would still want to have some sort of ignition lock as well.
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    Variable Bitrate quantum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CraziFuzzy View Post
    Not really stupid, but to be any point, it would really have to have some sort of practical reasoning as well. The only way I would even think about doing this would be to eliminate the space that is wasted by the shifter, in the incredibly important next to leg space. Would have to put a decent compartment, or specialized controls there, or SOMETHING that makes this worth it.
    That is exactly why I was kicking this around, to make that area of the console a nice little command center like the pic above. Safety and all that jazz being #1 priority of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by CraziFuzzy View Post
    I would be careful getting in over your head on something as important as the gear shift. This is something that really should be very well engineered, and you would still want to have some sort of ignition lock as well.
    I totally agree, which is why so many questions. Definitely not something I will take lightly if I decide to do it. It would need to be basically bulletproof, or at least as dependable as any other system in the car. Also why I want to take the carPC out of the equation.

    I want to keep is simple, so my goal would be to hacksaw off 3-4" of the gear shifter stalk so it sits under the face of the floor console. This way the neutral saftey switch, revers lockout and press brake to shift functions still work as designed from the factory. The actuator would simply move the stalk (instead of moving it with my hand) is all I am trying to accomplish.

    BTW, I actually have PRND321, so I would need a 7 position switch I guess. Something like this maybe? http://www.allelectronics.com/make-a...-SWITCH/1.html it was the only one O found.

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    Aren't alot of modern autos already fully electronic with dummy mechanicals?
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  10. #10
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    Don't forget your shifter has the button for reverse lock out. Unless you plan to completely eliminate that, you may need to be thinking of a second actuator.

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