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Thread: Michigan Tech's "ACE-burb"

  1. #1
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    Michigan Tech's "ACE-burb"

    Hello everybody,

    My name's Matt Rose, this is my first post here - although I've been a lurker to the mp3car site for quite a while.

    About halfway through my freshman year at Michigan Tech, my buddy Max Leason and I decided we wanted to put carputers in our vehicles. More then that, we wanted to do a carputer related project as our senior design requirements for graduation. Long story short, by the end of the year Max and I had gone through the tedious process of creating an Enterprise program specifically for what we wanted to do and secured corporate backing. General Motors has provided us with a 2007 Suburban for a development platform as well as funding for the project.

    Our enterprise, known as ACE (for Automotive Computing Enterprise) has a relatively wide scope as far as what we'd like to do with the carputer in the vehicle. Many of the points are outlined in this article done on us:

    http://www.admin.mtu.edu/urel/news/media_relations/675/

    We were also featured on the local news for our ambitions.

    We now have a somewhat permanent mounting solution for our carputer, which is an ITX Core2Duo setup as well as our DrewTech CARDAQ Plus. With the CARDAQ we can directly interface with the CAN and J1850 networks on the truck. We can control the windows, locks, mirrors, HVAC, radio, etc through our touch screen carputer. We are also working on integrating a media backend (probably vlc with our own interface).

    Our UI and backend is written in Visual C++, and we interface with the drewtech shared libraries to send CAN messages over the network. We boot a stripped Window XP Pro off a 32gb Patriot SSD and have a 100gb disk drive for media storage. The touchscreen is a 7" unit, i dont remember the brand. We have had driver issues with it though and would like a different one.

    Our second team, ACE2, is working on something a lot of you might find cool. We're putting a 15.4" laptop LCD in place of the instrument cluster and creating digital, skinnable, customizable gauges. Add gauges, move gauges, change the look of the gauges etc.

    We would also like to expand into doing vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

    Ive got a couple quick pictures I took with my phone, I'll get some better ones hopefully this weekend when I get back down to the shop, maybe even a video of what we've got so far.

    Well, thats a brief overview of our project. If you guys have any questions, or better yet, any suggestions, please feel free speak up!
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  2. #2
    Sheepdog rdholtz's Avatar
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    Interesting project. I was a Techman in the early '70's, and did a Ford-funded ME206 lab project on use of waste exhaust heat at startup to more rapidly warm up the engine coolant, reducing cold-run time and making passengers comfortable earlier. The work you're doing is far more advanced and extensive than the sort we did; ours took place over a single semester.

    The LCD instrument panel sounds really interesting. Imagine if there were an "industry standard" setting on every rental car; you climb in your new rental car and click on the "industry standard" setting, and you get an instrument panel you know well, so there's no period of adapting to where the instruments are. Too bad they can't do that so we can find the rental car's light switch at night.

    Have you compared your work to the "glass panels" used in contemporary aircraft? There are systems available for both commercial aircraft and homebuilts, and some of them might be good resources for pieces of your system. Sport Aviation magazine and Kitplanes magazine ads would have plenty of information for you. Your work might have applications that crossover to the aviation field, too.

    The new netbooks might provide low-cost resources, too. For instance, I'm putting an 8.9-inch monitor in my car, with a relatively fast Atom 1.6 processor and all the goodies, and it can be done for only $500 including the computer with LCD panel, and an added touchscreen; I'm using the EeePC 901, but larger-screen units are available, and the gap between standard laptops and netbooks keeps shrinking. I'd say that trend makes your project look very reasonable.

    Do you plan to keep some standard "steam" gauges as backup, like they do in aircraft? I guess loss of the instrument panel wouldn't be as potentially catastrophic in cars; but in aircraft, you can't pull over to the side of the sky if your nav system goes out.

    Please keep the information flowing -- you're doing fascinating stuff. It'll be fun to read your posts and get a glimpse of the future.

    And it's good to see Tech in the forefront. Go Huskies!
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    Just a quick update:

    There's a short youtube video out there with a demo of some body control functions

    [media]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60T2-cuWe5c[/media]

    more pics and videos to come! We just implemented the VoCon speech recognition and are working on testing that in the car.

    Matt

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    Hello everybody,

    another school year is underway and improvements to the ACE-'burb are coming in. Our vehicle interface software now has speech recognition using Nuance's VoCon3200 software. We're implementing the text-to-speech functionality soon.

    Also, we're writing a TCP/IP module for our truck. Through this, we'll be able to communicate with the truck from web apps, allowing control of any function on the truck.

    We've got a preliminary media section in the software using VLC, which allows music, dvd and video playback.

    On the hardware side of things, we're now using a Carnetix P2140 powering a c2d mac mini which has a 32gb SSD inside. The mac mini interfaces with the drewtech device over the NIC and we've connected the audio to the truck's BOSE amplifier.

    The ACE2 team is progressing nicely with their LCD instrument cluster, which now correctly reads most parameters from the vehicle over CAN (speed, tach, dummy lights, etc). ACE2 is now working on a dashboard designer of sorts which is basically a WYSIWYG for creating your own dash configuration.

    New for this year is ACE3. ACE3 is a broadening of the scope of the enterprise. They're transforming a S10 into a full electric vehicle.

    I'm hoping to get some new demo videos of our project within the next few weeks, and I'll post those when they're available.

    -MTUACE

  5. #5
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    Looks like some fun stuff! Keep us updated on your progress.

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    Got a couple pictures.

    The first is a shot of development of our own single-wire CAN devices to add functionality to the 'burb. You can see the CAN message on the O-Scope in the background. We're using a microchip PICDEM CAN-LIN2 board as well as a NeoVI.


    Secondly is a shot of the truck itself:


    the incredulous mass of wiring going on in the center console:


    the mini:


    and the bias box so that way we can use the Suburban's built-in headliner microphone for speechrec:


    -Matt

  7. #7
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    This is very interesting indeed.
    2007 Chevy Suburban LT1
    Pioneer AVH 5700 DVD Diamond Audio D3 6 1/2 components Kicker 06ZX650.4 amp Kicker 06ZX2500.1 (x 2) DC Sound Lab Level4 18's (Subwoofers)
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    One of the limitations we have encountered since reverse engineering the body control commands for windows and locks is not having control of the driver's door.

    The driver's door module acts as the master for the other doors, sending CAN messages when you press a window up or down to tell the other doors to actuate their window. Since the driver's door module itself has no need to send a message to move its own window, there was no available message we could send to control it.

    To solve this problem, we've developed a piggyback micro-controller. We're using a Microchip PIC18F4680 which has a built in CAN controller. Together with the appropriate GM-spec single wire CAN transceiver (and a bunch of ACE developed C18 code) we have successfully interfaced with the Suburban's CAN with our own micro-controller. This means we can now send our own message to our module (which piggybacks the drivers door module) and it in turn actuates the driver's window and mirror.

    Of course, now that we have this platform it basically means that we can create any device we want and have it interface with the vehicles existing CAN.

    We're looking into adding a USB interface and having our micro-controller as our Mac Mini's CAN interface (essentially creating our own, much lower cost, CAN interface device). This of course is a goal for down the road. For now, we're focusing on getting control of functions that were previously unavailable to us as well as our truck's web server / web interface.

    -Matt Rose

  9. #9
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    Ummm...that would be a cool project to document. A low cost interface to the CAN bus via USB? Nice.
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  10. #10
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    Good to see that you guys are still working on this project.
    2007 Chevy Suburban LT1
    Pioneer AVH 5700 DVD Diamond Audio D3 6 1/2 components Kicker 06ZX650.4 amp Kicker 06ZX2500.1 (x 2) DC Sound Lab Level4 18's (Subwoofers)
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