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Modular Dashboard

Configure your dashboard however you like.
  (+14, -1)(+14, -1)
(+14, -1)
  [vote for,

I was wondering if you could build a dashboard for a car that could be rearranged with different modules of similar size.

The dashboard would be built with a USB2.0 or firewire connection and air connection at each "station". Each "station" would be capable of delivering sensor data or some service to the car. Don't like where all the air-vents are, just move them - want to add a RPM gauge, - in-dash Cel-phone mount - ipod dock? Just plug in a module. Ashtray - just plug in a module. I imagine there would be some items that would be double-wide or larger (car stereo), but there wouldn't be any restrictions on that.

Left-handed drivers could add a radio-control module for instance, on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. It would make it very easy to upgrade your ride and replace broken parts. Would airbag modules be cheaper to replace than their "built-in" brethren? Maybe.

trekbody, Mar 17 2005

Forget modular dashboard http://www.autointe.../gm-autonomy-02.htm
modular car is where it's at. [RayfordSteele, Mar 23 2005]


       Would spawn a whole aftermarket industry. Good idea, if enough modules could be certified safe and legal. It'd be no different to any other car aftermarket stuff in that respect. [+]
david_scothern, Mar 17 2005

       One potential problem I see: when you say 'air connection at each station', and there must be quite a few stations, that means each air conn is pretty small, and thus not capable of delivering very much air. Also, having everything connected by firewire or usb2 makes for some interesting bandwidth dynamics, no? And what if something crashes (no pun intended)?   

       I'm not saying the idea is bad, just that maybe it needs a little more work.   

       I do like the concept, though. (Polish it up, and I might even bun it!)
galukalock, Mar 17 2005

       Perhaps have the vents able to be moved, but remain connected to a flexible hose. That way there's no danger of removing too many vents and cutting down on oxygen influx, and it also allows the system to work to its designed capacity.   

       Other than that, nice work.
shapu, Mar 17 2005

       How about being able to buy instruments that magnetically mount onto an otherwise flat-metallic cockpit like fridge-magnets. Each instrument connects wirelessly to the car's computer and pulls off the information it wants from a constantly updating database of information.   

       You could even configure a generic dial to display something based on some sql query you've written against the car's db. I don't know maybe lateral crosswinds or something.
zen_tom, Mar 17 2005

       + I think cars should be like lego
po, Mar 17 2005

       [+] I hate the trend that cars a going to-- less and less items are personalizable. In my new car, I can't even switch out my stereo for an aftermarket one.
brodie, Mar 17 2005

       [Brodie], I'd be glad to mail you a chisel.
shapu, Mar 17 2005

       [galuklock] - I was originally thinking that the air vents might be small too, but I believe if you pressurize the system enough, it would compensate for a restrictive amount of openings, if you choose a restrictive amount. Imagine that behind the module stations is a hollow cavity (thin), that gets the air conditioning (cooling or heating) output - there would be no output until you plugged in a module. Each potential opening would have a restrictor that would open when an air module was plugged in. You could even have air-equiped modules - like a scent dispenser. They could even be air powered little gizmos.   

       USB 2.0 and Firewire have plenty of bandwith to handle instruments, speakers, and the like. These would NOT be controls for driving functions - just indicators and such. As for crashing, well - the entire display panel in my Ford Windstar happens to be out right now, it's not a fuse, so in effect it is "crashed", and we get by, at least until I save up for a diagnosis and repair.   

       Thanks for the feedback.
trekbody, Mar 20 2005

shad, Mar 21 2005

       Some feedback from the resident bakery auto engineer:   

       Much of the space inside the dash is presently eaten by the HVAC module. There are plenty of reasons, from thermodynamic systems performance to simple vehicle packaging as to why it shouldn't be moved.   

       Safety is a huge constraint on what can be done where inside a dashboard. Place an item here, and it must satisfy X crush requirements. Place it over there, and the requirements change. Satisfying both would either be impossible or incredibly expensive. Crash-testing every feasible layout would not be practical at all, and so computer simulations, which are only as good as the analyst, would have to suffice. And then there's the voodoo electrical noise tests, which have weird requirements because of electromagnetic issues going on in the car.   

       It's an increasingly difficult endeavor to design car parts to work where they're supposed to. Getting them to work in multiple locations would be nightmarish. Some dramatic efforts at simplification and standardization would be required across vehicle systems and subsystems, which could be a good thing for the industry in some respects.   

       The best thing would be to start with GM's 'skateboard' concept and build up from there. With no engine compartment and a relatively clean slate, all kinds of things become possible.
RayfordSteele, Mar 23 2005

       The protocol you want to use is CAN - Control Area Network, or IEEE J1939. It's designed specifically for Automotive and Industrial control, and baked in most new cars. It lets the manufacturers centralise the control and cut down on the amount of wires going back and forth on the car - e.g. instead of a load of copper wires heading to the back for each one of the lights, just one power bus sits next to the network cable. Turn the headlights on, and a signal is put on the network. The front and rear light-control modules pick this up and activate the relevant lights. Same for braking, etc. There is usually a separate bus for critical systems like ABS, engine control and safety systems like airbags.   

       CAN is heavily supported and it means it is already possible to integrate new instruments and controls into existing cars just by finding the wires, sniffing for CAN IDs (some are standardised), and then rebroadcasting them at the correct moment. CAN hardware is also mass produced and very cheap.
Jim'll Break It, Mar 23 2005

       Nice comment, [Jim'll Break It], I learned from it. I like that.
bristolz, Mar 23 2005

       Hang on, you're basically just saying, "lets make buying new dashboards cheaper". And they're already modular in a certain car. I believe it's the Ford Ka. Admittedly, in that case, "modular" extends about as far as changing the colour of stuff.
quaero curvus, Sep 09 2005


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