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In Car GPS Systems

In Car GPS Systems
This is an ongoing project now in its third iteration. The picture at the right shows what I am using today:

- a $99 PDA cell phone running Windows PocketPC 2003
- Mapopolis and local maps
- a custom GPS receiver wired into the car

This works pretty well to get me where I am going. It does less for the physics of a car on a racetrack...but more on that when I get around to writing more about the project.


Second Iteration - Battery Operated Device

Second Iteration - Battery Operated Device
After a neat success with the DOS based app, I tried to migrate it to smaller (battery powered) hardware. This proved to be a tougher challenge.

I did sort of get code working on a 8051 chip and also bought a small x86 biscuit computer. However, building my own I2C drivers and writing code in assembler to match baud rates was extremely tough. (in DOS it was easier...I was still writing my own RS-232 driver...but at least I didn't have to worry about sensing the voltage at the right time and whether my for loop would take 15 milliseconds or 17. Those old programmers really had a complicated environment with a different set of challenges.) Never mind the fact that this time around I was playing with a soldering iron and trying to get voltages right.

Anyway, here is a picture of the GPS on my right. I never could get it to reliably pick up the data so it turned into part of a Halloween costume. At least it was pretty and had flashing lights.

First Iteration - Laptop in a 911 in England

click to expand
Well, here's the first version of a project that has been developing for several years. Somehow I found myself in England with time on my hands, a laptop, and a GPS kit.

I wrote a C application (for DOS) that basically just read in the GPS signals (NMEA) and created graphs and in car details. It was great fun to create data files and learn my way around a remote location. (I used to get lost driving back from the supermarket)

Keep in mind that this was long before in car navigation systems were the vogue. In fact, handheld GPS wasn't even much of an option (at least not with maps). If they were, I wouldn't have spent $700 for a kit the size of a brick that ran off the car battery.

Also, keep in mind, my goal was to make something that had fancy looking gauges that would record a car on the track for getting faster lap times. (I figured those car nuts would be a good market.)