Vibrating Shifter Could Make Driving A Stick Easier
Ford engineer Zach Nelson's 21st-century creation combines hardware and software to let the newbie driver know when it's time to shift gears.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
For those who still hope to learn how to drive a stick shift, Ford junior engineer Zach Nelson is here to help. He put an Xbox 360 feedback motor into a 3D-printed grip he printed himself, added an Arduino controller, connected an Android tablet with USB and Bluetooth, and brought them all together with the diagnostic system on a Mustang to create a vibrating "smart shifter." It can be programmed to vibrate for efficiency or for better performance, or it can just let a complete newbie know when it's time to shift. Nelson even installed an LED display on top that shows the gear position.
What's the Big Idea?
At a time when various tech companies are working on taking out the driving part of the car experience entirely, Nelson's creation is a nice nod to those fans who insist that manual transmissions are still the way to go. The device also demonstrates one of the many possible uses for OpenXC, Ford's open-source software platform. With it, Nelson was able to get real-time data, including engine speed and accelerator position, to the shifter.
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