Can You Repeat That?

One of the things I’ve been really frustrated with is radio communication. Even when the radios are behaving well, you often have to ask “can you repeat that?” My experience with radios is that most of the time they aren’t working well. So far, they have been more trouble than they are worth. So I’ve decided to build an alternative. Before I discuss those details, let’s review what kinds of communications happen during a race.

Pit to Driver

What does the pit need to say to the driver? Some are ordinary questions about the state of the car.

  • Is everything okay?
  • Is the water temperature good?

The pit might also have some status messages or warnings

  • Green, green, green
  • Yellow flag in Turn 5
  • Emergency vehicles on track
  • Red flag, stop the car in a safe place

Driver to Pit

How many things does the driver need to communicate to the pit?

  • Yes in answer to a question
  • No in answer to a question
  • I’m pitting now, something bad has happened
  • I’m pitting soon because I’m running low on fuel
  • Oops, can you check for penalties? (maybe)

This is a really small list. Instead of radios, how about something else? Like 5 buttons.

Prototype

I’ve built a prototype messaging system for racing communications. It’s built using an Arduino, Discord, a HotSpot, and some buttons. The driver pushes buttons. That’s it. The pit and spotters communicate to the driver via Discord. The messages persist on the screens so nobody has to say “can you repeat that”.

Next

I have to build a robust box for the buttons. I may include an LCD for status messages. It needs a good name. Maybe it should send messages to a #team channel with driver or car data. It has an inertial measurement unit, so it’s capable of making friction circles and such. There’s a lot of stuff I could do, but some of my favorite things (e.g. RumbleStrip timer) do only one thing, and maybe all this does is text communication. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. And if you can come up with a snappy name, that would be amazing.

11 thoughts on “Can You Repeat That?

    1. I have timers and data loggers already, so all I need is messaging. It’s nice that the RaceCapture Pro does all of that, but it’s also $650 or something. An Arduino with WiFi is only $40.

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  1. It feels like tying this into the upcoming digital flag solutions might work. First to an open API wins, perhaps?

    Some kind of a speech-to-text (with audio capture) might be nice just for those cases in which the driver really does want a sixth button.

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  2. Additional thought – devoting half(?) the driver screen to a really simple overlay that says PIT NOW for whatever reason. Or doing that as a background color change or similar.

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    1. I had some ideas about not using Discord and having my own display. That way I could split up the screen into different sections: warnings, questions, chit-chat. But then I thought, just be lazy and use Discord. I can send images if I want to.

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  3. How about:
    “The Korf-O-Meter”.
    “Korf-avator”.
    “Korf Intergalactic Communicator”.
    “Korf in car digital pit board”.
    The “I would rather push buttons than drive the car”.

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  4. I think you have a connection with the guys from deaf power racing. I’ve driven with them a couple times now, and we had discussed something exactly like this for racers who can’t use the radio for whatever reason. It could be for everything from people who are deaf, to people who just have incompatible plugs between their helmet and whichever system the car has.

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  5. Wifi won’t work well, it’s only line of sight.
    I use a LoRa radio built into the digital dash that has two way coms to the pits.
    The car sends basic stats (Water temp, oil pressure, RPM, speed, battery voltage, AFR, runtime, and GPS pos) a few times per second.
    The pits can send back a “Pit in X laps” and the driver can touch the screen to ack.
    We haven’t used the “Pit in X laps” feature much as we haven’t raced in almost two years, and the last race ended with a catastrophic wheel bearing failure an hour and a half in. :-(
    The pits have a display that shows where on the track the car is as well as the remote dash stuff. Useful to find out if the car is stopped on the side of the track.

    As for radios, get a good helmet with built in coms. They are so far superior to roll-your-own it’s not even funny.
    I had a helmet radio kit in my old helmet and the speakers distorted and the mike had a tremendous amount of car noise in it. My new Roux sounds great to me and has clear audio for the pits.

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