Ford engineer Zachary Nelson has created a vibrating haptic shift knob for a Ford Mustang that vibrates at the optimum shifting point. It is made from the motor from a Microsoft Xbox 360 game controller and is controlled via Bluetooth.
Shift indicators have been generally fitted to race cars to let the driver know when to shift to the next gear so that the engine’s revs are within the power band. On road cars these shift indicators are usually designed to encourage more fuel-efficient driving and tend to be ignored by most drivers.
Nelson’s device vibrates to let the driver know it’s time to change gear through their hand giving them a tactile interface which can’t be ignored.
“I wanted to create something that expands the car’s capabilities and improves the experience for the driver,” said Nelson. “I decided to use OpenXC to provide a new kind of feedback for the driver through the shift knob.”
A Bluetooth OpenXC adapter is connected to the Mustang Shelby GT500′s on-board diagnostic (OBD) port to send vehicle data to the shift knob. The shift knob is jazzed up with a LED 7 segment display which shows the current gear and some colored lights which glow to match the Mustang’s interior lighting.
Zach, a recent MIT graduate, uses real-time vehicle data such as engine speed and accelerator position to determine the shift points. The shift knob can be programmed to vibrate according to many different parameters, including optimum fuel efficiency, fastest acceleration, maximum torque and performance shifting approaching the redline. There’s also an option where it can show a beginner when to shift.
It does have one drawback however, in that the driver’s hand must be holding the shift knob to feel it vibrating which could be a safety concern as it’s always advisable to keep both hands on the steering wheel.