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.
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”.
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.