• Jul 26, 2013
In the late 1990s, Nintendo bundled a controller attachment known as the Rumble Pak with their popular Star Fox 64 video game. The motorized accessory attempted to mimic the onscreen action through physical controller feedback, and we'll admit that slamming into an asteroid after being instructed to "do a barrel roll!" carried a bit more impact with the Rumble Pak.

In the late 1990s, Nintendo bundled a controller attachment known as the Rumble Pak with their popular Star Fox 64 video game. The motorized accessory attempted to mimic the onscreen action through physical controller feedback, and we'll admit that slamming into an asteroid after being instructed to "do a barrel roll!" carried a bit more impact with the Rumble Pak.

Since then, modern video game systems from Sony's Playstation 3 to Microsoft's Xbox 360 have integrated vibration feedback into their controllers. What was once a unique new feature, now goes mostly unnoticed by gamers. But Ford Engineer Zach Nelson saw the opportunity to put a new spin on the old technology.

"I wanted to create something that expands the car's capabilities and improves the experience for the driver," said Nelson. His idea was to bring vibration feedback to the shift knob of a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.

Nelson 3D-printed a shift knob and installed an Arduino microprocessor, LED display, and XBox 360 controller motor. The knob displays the selected gear and vibrates when it's time to shift. The car communicates with the shift knob via a tablet PC running a custom-developed Android app, plugged into the vehicle's OBD-II port, which sends a wireless Bluetooth signal to the shifter. This is all made possible through Ford's open-source OpenXC development platform.

Nelson says he's tested the shift knob on various other vehicles, including a Ford Focus ST. "The basic concept of my system could be integrated directly into the car, and used on automatic-transmission vehicles with paddle shifters with electric power steering," said Nelson, who has made the project available on the OpenXC website.

Driving enthusiasts might question the notion of a shifter that tells you when to shift. After all, the whole point of driving a manual is for greater control. For example, if you're merging onto the freeway, you might take the car closer to redline; whereas if you're driving for efficiency, you might shift at a lower RPM. We were also taught to bring our hand back to the wheel following a shift, meaning that--if you're driving at "10 and 2"--you wouldn't necessarily feel the shift knob vibrate.

Still, Nelson's haptic-feedback shifter is a cool example of how open-source software and 3D printing can change the way we think about automotive research and development.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 15 Comments
      HAT1701D
      • 3 Days Ago
      I'll drive the machine...not have the machine drive me. Not only that, but how much will it cost to fix the system when it breaks after the warranty is gone. Some people, such as myself, like to own the vehicle for years and not stay in debt with continuous payments month after month after month.
      wyntersky
      • 3 Days Ago
      LEE and HIS design team nailed it, straight out of the gate. The unveiling of the '64 1/2, at World's Fair gave rise to the TRUE "PONY-PUREST" dream car. I spent the first ten years of my life traveling in the '66, that my Dad gave my Mom, as a Wedding present. That is Love... and Mom and Pop are still together after 46 years. In a movie, they can kill-off who they want and crash any car they want, but a true, tear-filled moment, for me, is when they crush a classic Mustang.
      desta81
      • 3 Days Ago
      Boss to engineer, "You're working on what?" Engineer to boss "A vibrating shifter" Boss to engineer "You're fired!"
      B N
      • 3 Days Ago
      Ford Mustang - DO A BARREL ROLL! (jerks wheel at high velocity)
      • 3 Days Ago
      Cute but i think if you have a Mustang or any real care with power.If you need something to tell u when to shift you should have never pulled it off the lot.As far as feedback while u drive,the sound of a V8 is all i like to hear.
      ellwood145
      • 3 Days Ago
      I will never get my lady friends off of it.
      OUT FOX EM
      • 3 Days Ago
      If you need the shifter to vibrate in order to know when to shift, you shouldn't be driving a GT500.
      rkbujinkan
      • 3 Days Ago
      I will take the x-box over that ford junk any day. I guess the vibrating shifter will make up for the fact that the ford has no power. Sad.
        AZ Stang
        • 3 Days Ago
        @rkbujinkan
        ...said the guy who knows nothing about a 412 horsepower car that gets 26 mpg and costs less than $30k.
      John
      • 3 Days Ago
      I want a car that tells me when to shift I'll buy an auto! Ask some of the Imports how that upshift light worked out for them it became on of the most hated things on thier cars! One more bit of nanny mentality thay needs to be trashed immeadiatly.
      • 3 Days Ago
      What next? how about on the way home the frige tells the dash you need beer stop and get 1 case of beer and dont forget the corn is on sale 12 for a buck !!! that is what we need next
      pruettee
      • 3 Days Ago
      I like the idea. I have had 5 Mustangs in my life. I recently rented one while in Maui. I love them for the looks, the speed, and the feel while driving. My problem, I got old. I still think they are cool to look at, drive, and to ride in.
      B Dog
      • 3 Days Ago
      wow... he reinvented the shift light, the least used warning light out there. I won't even drive a car with a shift light, and I wouldn't drive a car with a vibrating shift knob. or a ford. especially a plastic "mustang"
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