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Thread: Need Suggestions for in-race-car PC. Car goes 300+mph. Video?

  1. #1
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    Need Suggestions for in-race-car PC. Car goes 300+mph. Video?

    Hi everyone,

    I've been reading here for a few years and watching the forum grow - I've finally run into a project where I need an in-car PC.

    I crew on a race car project where I am responsible for all the electronics in the vehicle. This includes the Engine management system, and the data gathering system(s). This car is built for racing at Bonneville (top / landspeed) and we hope to be the fastest production body car in the world when the car is completed.

    It's a custom built, tube chassis car with a 498cid Hemi and two ProMod 91mm turbos capable of 3400+ horsepower. We'll likely only need around 200hp to achieve our goal.
    Here's a video of the chassis dyno tuning we performed last week, to get you an idea:
    http://youtu.be/ry3t9GfAEb8


    Anyhow, the engine is up and running on Megasquirt-3 which I assembled myself. I also use an IO Extender (add-on kit for megasquirt) to gather data from turbine speed sensors, wheel speed sensors, suspension travel, and a number of fluid temps and pressures.


    I've decided that I need an in-car PC to run the TunerStudio software (a simple Java based app) to collect the data from the Megasquirt+IOX. The computer can be a low end, low performer because all it's doing is capturing data over the serial port at 115200bps.

    HOWEVER, here are my questions:

    (1) I am wondering if I can beef up the in-car PC specs such that I could also record 2, 3 or 4 channels of video. I *can* run independent cameras (GoPro or similar) but the problem is, it's a hassle to start each camera individually while preparing to make a pass in the car. I'd much rather have a centralized recorder with 2-4 channels of video.

    (2) Are there decent cameras out there for this? I'd like HD 720p 30fps. Last year I used a couple cheapo Sanyo Xacti CG20 cameras with good luck (see in car footage from our other race car here:


    (3) Can anyone here recommend cameras, and in-car PC specs for me? I am running short on time, the event is in August so I have 3 months to put together and test a system for use in the car.



    Thanks so much for ANY input you may have,
    -Scott

  2. #2
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    Apologies for having no real input, but...

    OMG this is really cool, subscribing to thread, good luck on your endeavours.

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    Quick update, I had time to do some more research this morning and I have decided to skip video recording to the in-car PC. I found remote controlled "action" cameras that'll do the trick just fine and are affordable at $300 per channel.


    I will still use the in-car PC to log powertrain data from our Megasquirt EMS.

    My next question is, I'd like to remotely control (RDP? VNC?) the PC wirelessly. I don't see any motherboards that include both WiFi and a 9-pin Serial port - should I go with built0in wifi and a serial port mini PCI card? or vice versa, should I get a board with onboard serial and use a mini-PCI Wifi card?

    Suggestions welcome, don't be shy.

    -Scott

  4. #4
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    I would get something with an integrated serial port and then add Wi-Fi. A motherboard similar to this offers an integrated serial port and a mini-pcie slot (I have personally used this board and it works great for low-power, low-performance situations). Depending on the space you have you could get something without a mini-pcie slot which would be cheaper and just use a pci wifi card.

  5. #5
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    I would get a built-in serial port as usb-serial dongles are wonky sometimes, you can use usb or pci wifi. For remoting in, not sure if wifi will keep up if your trying to monitor while its driving 300+mph

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    Quote Originally Posted by SNOtwistR View Post
    I would get a built-in serial port as usb-serial dongles are wonky sometimes, you can use usb or pci wifi. For remoting in, not sure if wifi will keep up if your trying to monitor while its driving 300+mph
    +1!! Having tuned a lot of cars using USB dongles, I know how to tweak them to make them "work OK" - but lately I have been testing USB-serial adapters versus PCMCIA adapters versus onboard UARTs and have found that I can get nearly double the "frame rate" (number of samples per second of all my inputs to the Megasquirt) using onboard UARTs. Hence, I plan on going with your suggestion.

    How much of a concern is a fan versus fanless solution? At Bonneville, where we race, car interior temps can reach 110 degrees F. I see some of the specs for no-fan CPUs and cases saying "max 40 deg Celsius" which is under our maximum. I do not care about fan noise in the race car (you'd go deaf without hearing protection - a Barton Hemi making 3000hp is extremely loud).

    What are thoughts on the bundles out there that have the Intel Atom processors, in the VoomPC enclosures, going right around $300? they include the M2-ATX power supply, seem like a decent choice but I am concerned about internal temps getting too high...?

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    Forget about a carPC in a racer. It'll be broken in no time. This is what you want...or one of the many similar systems:
    http://www.spaa05.com/rct/


    VegasGuy

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    Quote Originally Posted by VegasGuy View Post
    Forget about a carPC in a racer. It'll be broken in no time. This is what you want...or one of the many similar systems:
    http://www.spaa05.com/rct/


    VegasGuy
    That doesn't look like what I need. I don't need telemetry - I should clarify, I just want to remote in to the PC during staging to get the internal datalogging going. Also, our racing venue is smooth with no bumps, not a rally race - watch the video above and you'll see what I am talking about. Our cars weigh 9000 pounds on purpose. There's no rough stuff.

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    OK, I got the case, power supply, Intel mothreboard and Atom CPU, 2 sticks of 2GB DDR3-800 memory, and a "rugged" 2.5" HDD on the way.

    My last concern is the wireless card. Does anyone have suggestions for the antenna to run (in the race car, pointing out the back window towards the Push Truck)? and any suggestions on a mini-PCI wifi card to use out there at Bonneville?

    thanks!
    -Scott

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieselgeek View Post
    OK, I got the case, power supply, Intel mothreboard and Atom CPU, 2 sticks of 2GB DDR3-800 memory, and a "rugged" 2.5" HDD on the way.

    My last concern is the wireless card. Does anyone have suggestions for the antenna to run (in the race car, pointing out the back window towards the Push Truck)? and any suggestions on a mini-PCI wifi card to use out there at Bonneville?

    thanks!
    -Scott


    Update to this thread, I got the car PC assembled and running!!

    I am a Linux admin at work, so I decided to try Ubuntu. I am glad I did, it's rock solid (on the test bench anyways). I gutted a laptop from the junk pile at work and got an Intel mini-PCI card with antenna, and it works great. I can connect via ad hoc networking with my laptop and use VNC to remote control the desktop. The other cool thing someone helped me with, is a utility called "xdotool" which lets me write a simple script to start my TunerStudio program and begin a datalog automatically. Whenever the race car is fired up, a datalog begins in about 25 seconds.

    Next up is working on a pair of antennas (and probably a 1w power booster on each end), and some little things like trying out tricks to make Ubuntu boot a little quicker. Right now I am using a WD-SCorpion 500gb drive, but I bought a 64gb Plextor SSD that I will also try out to see how it compares. I am a little leery of using the SSD as lots of people report generally flaky behavior with them, we'll see how that goes.

    Thanks to all the members of this forum, I did a lot of reading over the past few weeks and got a lot of great ideas from here.

    In August I'll be back to post up the results of our racing season,

    -Scott

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