Automotive Ultrasonic Hacking HowTo

Understand the Existing System

The first step in the process is to understand the existing system on a vehicle that is equipped with “Park Assists”. Just for background information, the term “Park Assist” was chosen for a reason. GM will tell you very quickly, this is NOT a safety device. This is for parking ONLY. Their fear is some bonehead will back over someone and claim the backup sensors never warned them. Not being considered a safety device made our lives much easier. That was good news since we had such a terrible time anyway. I could write a book about EMC testing!

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Hacking GM Ultrasonic Park Assist Sensors

GM Ultrasonic Sensor

Abstract: A few years ago I worked on an ultrasonic park assist system for General Motors. We were awarded a small piece of business in early 2006. Our first modules and sensors made it into production in early 2008. Those two years were pure hell. I learned a lot about ultrasonic backup systems in those two years. My contribution was to develop all the embedded software for the control module. Our little company was eventually acquired by one of the big suppliers in mid 2008 (more stress – launching product while being taken over by a big fish at the same time.) By the end of 2008 I was totally burned out and left the automotive business. I’ve since moved on to start Powerhouse Electronics.

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Gun Tote’n Lego Mindstorm

Lookout! Another Dangerous Robot on the Loose.

Here is our second Lego Mindstorm robot to keep clear of.  This robot has the ability to swing around and unleash two bullets on whatever it finds.

The interesting part of this robot is the ultrasonic ranger coupled with the motor rotation.  As the motor rotates, the ultrasonic range is compared.  When a new minimum is found both the motor position and new minimum value are  saved into a pair of variables.  At the end of the sweep, the head is turned back to where the minimum value was detected.  At that point, the guns are fired!

Below is a video and some build pictures.  Clicking on the small pictures below opens them up into a larger view.

Hope this helps other have fun with the Mindstorm.  Have fun!

The Jimmy Neutron LED Pinewood Derby Car

You know your in trouble when you have to fix software bugs in your son’s Pinewood Derby car!

This year I decided to give up trying to compete with the “Gear-Heads” in our Cub Scout Pack. There are just too many variables when trying to build a fast car. Plus, the Gear-Heads always seem to get lucky.

The first year we built a really fast car – I think it was just dumb luck. We placed second place overall for speed that first year. That was out of a pack of 50 cars. There is nothing better than winning!

We’ll, with a little taste of success under our belts, we thought we could simple do it again. Wrong! I pulled all the tricks last year and put a ton of time into trying to build the ultimate speeder. The reward for all that work was a car that finished in the bottom third of the pack for speed. Bummer! There is nothing worst than losing!

OK, this year is going to be different. To heck with speed. If we can’t build a fast car then maybe we can build one to win all the style points. Eight and ten year old boys really go for the styling. A cool car can be even better than a fast car – at least that is what we’re telling ourselves. So, what will little boys go for? The Gear-Heads also come up with stylized cars too. What can we EE’s do to win style points? Bingo! Lets add some blinky lights to our car! No way the Gear-Heads can keep up with that.

And so the Jimmy Neutron LED Pinewood Derby car was born. There, take that, you Gear-Heads.

Below is a photo gallery showing the build process.