Haptic feedback has been used for many years to add a more realistic experience to video game controllers. Its function is simple – alert the gamer through physical feedback so the gamer does not have to look away from the game. Interesting concept, right? Zachary Nelson, MIT graduate and rookie Ford engineer thought so when saw the potential for this type of technology and decided to implement the concept into a manual gearshift knob. This gearshift knob was created to relay haptic feedback messages to the driver, based on information from the car’s internal computer. Nelson explains, “I wanted to create something that expands the cars capabilities and improves the experience of the driver.” Nelson combined game controller technology and Ford’s OpenXC app platform to make driving a stick shift a fun and much more interactive experience.
Building the vibrating knob
Step one of developing this haptic feedback gearshift knob was first creating an app that could interpret real-time information that it receives from the on-board computer. This includes information such as revolutions per minute (RPM), accelerator position and vehicle speed to calculate the optimum shift position. The message is translated and then transmitted from the car’s OBD-II port over a wireless Bluetooth connection to a tablet. The tablet then sends the signal via USB cable to the shift knob causing it to vibrate like a game controller at the peak moment to notify the driver to shift gears.
Nelson then took a digital model of a Ford Focus ST shift knob, modified it into a hollow shell leaving room for extra parts and then printed it on a 3D printer. After the physical shell was printed it was then equipped with the vibrating motor from an Xbox 360 controller, an Ardunio controller with a mini-USB port, and LED Display and colored LED lights. The LED lighting not only creates a unique look but also helps the driver to see the gear position more easily.
Nothing goes together better than classic American muscle and manual shifting, so when time came for Nelson to test his design, the Ford Shelby GT500 was his first choice, along with the sporty Ford Focus and Fiesta ST. This new shift knob is not just for teaching newbies to drive using a standard transmission, it also features different settings for those who just prefer a manual transmission. Based on information retrieved from the internal computer, the driver can set the shift knob to alert them when it is the optimum time to shift, depending on whether they are going for performance or fuel economy. This gearshift upgrade knob is not available on shelves yet, however you can download plans to build one yourself on Ford’s OpenXC site.
While you may have to build the interactive gearshift knob yourself, Permian Ford does have a great selection of vehicles to install it in. Whether you want the muscle of a new Ford Mustang or a sporty, fuel-efficient Focus or Fiesta ST, we can help you find the right vehicle for you that fits your style and budget. We invite you to stop by 1000 North Dal Paso Street in Hobbs, New Mexico and take a new Ford for a test drive, we know you will want to take it home!