Vehicular Hacking, From Art Cars to JEEPuters

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Vehicular Hacking, From Art Cars to JEEPuters

While DIY automotive projects are nothing new, the options for modifying your vehicle are becoming increasingly diverse and accessible. From Backyard Biodiesel production and vegetable-oil-powered motorcycles to solar panel augmented chassis and homemade RFID keyless entry, as the Owner’s Manifesto states, “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it,” and this should apply to your manufactured automobile as much as any commercial object. Continue reading for a few examples of vehicular hacking, from art cars to an Arduino-controlled Jeep!

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An art car gone mad, the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir has long been a staple of Maker Faires from Austin to Detroit to New York. And with each appearance it might be different than the last, as this project undergoes “continuous modification and reprogramming.” For example, the control system, once ran with BASIC Stamp, now uses a Linux netbook’s web browser, giving the makers a visual GUI for choosing songs and animation sequences.

Wanting a truck with more power options, Mechanical Mashup maker Dave re-wires and hacks a Black & Decker power inverter to reside in the panel between his truck’s driver and passenger seats. As they say in their video podcast, “cars aren’t keeping up with technology,” and it’s up to makers to hack their vehicles to suit their needs. And sometimes all you need is a lot more power!

Hamburg-based maker Alexander Weber detailed his Race Car POV at his tinkerlog blog. After experimenting for a year with a couple prototypes, the drive-by results are pretty fantastic!

Here is my Jeep wrangler that I outfitted with a couple Arduinos, a bunch of relays and some swtiches. Basically a computerized power box for the jeep. It runs all of my accessories along with lights and even starts the jeep with only a code! Has light sensors to automatically turn on the lights and can tell the time and temp.

Ed’s Arduino-powered Jeep Wrangler shows what is possible when a maker wants to extensively modify their vehicle’s interior and functions with an Arduino! His first experiment with that microcontroller platform, this 11-minute video walkthrough shows everything from temperature display to controlling his garage’s lights and door from inside his vehicle. He even modded his ignition to the push of a button!

Instead of a car with mods, this car is the mod. Vehicular hacking taken to its logical conclusion, this car is part of an emerging trend of homemade diesel and electric motor vehicles. Best of all, the Roopod is also completely street legal! This auto has managed to squeeze out an incredible 78 miles per gallon, and the maker suspects that number could be improved upon.

10 thoughts on “Vehicular Hacking, From Art Cars to JEEPuters

  1. Gary says:

    Hacking a car does have a whole different level of responsibility and liability than altering a toaster or the way your house lights are controlled. Household modifications do not impact innocent bystanders. Altering a vehicle from the way it was designed can have ripple effects that are not understood without a complete understanding of all systems that rely on the marriage the car’s systems. Something as simple as re-wiring lights can make the vehicle not road worthy if there is a chance the lights will not work and the vehicle is operated at night without lights. There are laws in the area of automotive modifications, unlike a appliance enhancement shorting out a household circuit breaker, the vehicle can be involved in a life taking accident. Let alone, since the many automotive systems are tied together, most dealers will not touch the vehicle once it has been modified. I personally upgrade cars for economy, performance as well personalization, and encourage others to look into how to make their cars more unique to their needs. Just beware that when things go wrong, people can end up crippled for life if not killed.

    1. miroslava von schlochbaum says:

      We in the toaster industry also want the public to know that altering a toaster takes on an enormous risk to all the inhabitants and guests to your home. You can’t possibly anticipate all the decades of safety built into the modern toaster and attempting to re-engineer even the most apparently trivial aspects of the modern toaster could leave the household open to personal injury and abrogation of one’s homeowners’ insurance. So just beware that when toaster things go wrong, people can end up toasted! Best to leave the do-it-yourself to the profession do-it-yourselfers. Just use to the stuff as it was engineered, sit on the couch, and we’ll all be safer.

      1. Gary says:

        Heh-heh… fun, thanks!

        1. miroslava von schlochbaum says:

          m’pleasure [pull o’ forelock]. i just get tired of “my industry is the one that deserves respect, ..the rest not so much” everything can be made dangerous if one is sufficiently creative and careless. just like everything can be made safe and interesting if one is sufficiently creative and careful.

          1. Gary says:

            Completely agree. I come from a family where ‘everything can be made better for your particular needs’. Manufactures create “safe” and usable for everyone. That doesn’t make the product best suited for everyone’s expectations. Dad spent a lot of time teaching us how to respect what the developers had intended the users to interact with the device. Then, look for ways to ‘tune’ it more to what we needed than someone else with other expectations. I created plenty of bright light shows in my early days as I got things crossed. Thus, I have a respect for how complicated things can be in a simple toaster heat control. Doesn’t mean I wont pull it apart to see if I can make it ‘better’. :-) Generally though, no one has taken the time to lay down laws (except warranties) about toying with a device you bought. With the exception for automobiles, where there are emission and public safety laws that come into play. I was only trying to point out the need to play with forethought when it comes to car mods as you don’t want to hurt some person standing at the bus stop. That person who isn’t impacted much when my modification to the family DVR didn’t double the memory but instead erased all of those shows my sister didn’t get a chance to watch yet.

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I'm an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!

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