Android Dash & Bluetooth Shift Light

The precursor to my dash display was an Android application which incorporated a Bluetooth shift light device. Using OBD2 data, the application displays engine data to screen, as well as making use of the phones location data for a simple lap timing routine.

The idea was to offer Motorsport level display and logging to anyone with an Android smart phone, the difference between my applications and the many others available in the play store was the addition of a separate piece of Bluetooth hardware that acted as a shift/warning light.

Android Application
Communicating with the car via a Bluetooth ELM327 device, it was possible to display engine data to the user and also configure min/max alerts for each ‘PID’. The application would also send RPM data to an additional Bluetooth shift light device.

I developed the application much more than I care to admit to, especially as it now lays dormant. It wasn’t all for nothing as I learnt heaps along the way, but writing about it now isn’t easy, especially when I think back to the amount of time I invested in it. As well as connecting to Bluetooth devices, and displaying data to screen, the app also allowed you to build profiles for each vehicle you connected it to, set min/max warnings and also carry out some simple lap timing.

Bluetooth Shift Light
Using an Adafruit Feather BLE board, and a 8 LED NeoPixel stick, the shift light was my first real foray into programming an Ardunio type device, powered by a 400mAh LiPo battery it is truly wireless. From the application you can configure the brightness, colour and order with which the LEDS lit based on a range of RPM. Under a warning condition it would also flash red to warn the driver they had to check a particular engine parameter.

Adafruit Feather BLE Shift Light

The enclosure is 3D printed in ABS, and attached to the dashboard of your car using a small piece of velcro.

Failure?
It’s a difficult one this. Ultimately the project failed, but I learnt so much along the way it’s hard to look at it as a complete failure. Without this project, it is unlikely my dash project would have ever seen the light of day. It introduced me to Arduino, 3D printing, and handling data sent from a vehicle.

I quickly came to the realisation that Bluetooth comms in a Motorsport environment aren’t quite as reliable as you’d like them to be. When you’re driving your car at 10/10ths the last thing you want to be busying your mind with, is why your phone has stopped communicating with your car. It’s also my belief that mobile phones and tablets are flawed devices for displaying data in a vehicle, from lack of screen brightness to overheating and battery issues, you can’t rely on them, especially so when using wireless data transmission.

Relying on OBD2 for data is also far from ideal, from latency to data just not being present where it should be, it wasn’t a suitable way to extract real time engine data from a vehicle.

What’s the saying? You’ve got to crack a few eggs to make a lemonade.

Android Dash Early Testing Mini R53

Future
I do wonder if the wireless shift light could be used for console based sim racing, if you’re interested in something along those lines drop me a message and I’ll do my best to help you.