The ideal controller

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jdh2550_1
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The ideal controller

OK, here's one for the techies:

What functions would the ideal large scooter or motorbike controller have? If you could say to Alltrax or Curtis "build me this" then what features would it have?

Here's my start:

1) Integrate logging functions (controller voltage in, controller voltage out, amps in, amps out, temperature, speed, individual battery voltages) with non-volatile storage in the controller
2) Allow dealer programmable max speed and max power parameters (i.e. make it easy for dealer in State X match that states moped laws)
3) Allow user programmable speed profiles (but don't allow them to exceed the dealer programmable top speed)
4) Integrate a "reserve power" function - when the batteries get down to X percent depth of discharge reduce the max power output to Y percent of maximum. For example at 80% depth of discharge cut the power to 33% of max. X and Y to be set by the dealer. The idea is to allow the rider to "limp along" to their first charging opportunity without killing the batteries (even just setting the low voltage cut off higher isn't good enough because prats like me will just cycle the throttle on and off and limp along that way merrily killing the poor batteries)
5) Output all that logging data at 10Hz over serial, USB or Bluetooth to allow the addition of a digital display panel
6) Provide a nice Windows interface for setting all the above stuff - but also publish the protocol so that I can make my own programming device (e.g. build it into the digital display with a touchscreen based GUI).
7) I'd like the following versions: 48V/100A, 60V/200A, 72V/400A, 86V/500A, 92V/500A. With prices ranging from $100 to $500.

Oh yeah, and I'd like to get a free toy inside the box.

Is that too much to ask? ;-)

In all of the above references to "dealer" is someone who knows what s/he's doing and is responsible for his/her decisions (i.e. if they set the controller such that they can claim "better performance" then they will need to factor in replacing the batteries under warranty!). Yeah, I know - I'm dreaming on that one, right?

So, what's on your controller wish list?

reikiman
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Re: The ideal controller

I think you listed incipient-vehicle-maker sort of specs.. I mean, you sound like your head is wrapping itself around "I want to sell a vehicle where I lock down some functionality which can be unlocked for expert users". Am I reading between the lines right?

One aspect of "speed profiles" I'd like to see is a simple switch input that allows to quickly switch between a couple modes. For example in normal cruising the amp rate can be kept limited -- kinda like this observation usatracy has with his CA unit, that (if I understand him right) beyond a certain threshold high amps doesn't make a difference so he's having the CA limit the max amps. But you might want a turbo mode that you can flip on with a push of a button. So if the controller could switch between profiles on the fly with a simple input you could make that be controlled by a pushbutton somewhere.

Your limp mode is very much like that.

I think serial ports are so 1980's. USB or Bluetooth is the way to go.

I think windows-only config programs are -- er -- well, I'm very irritated right now because I don't have a Windows computer, I want to fiddle with the settings on my Alltrax controller, and Alltrax only supplies a fracking windows program. Um, this is the modern times and I had hoped the world would be more enlightened than to buy into the poppycock that Windows is to be the end-all-be-all of computing. What crap. "Nice" and "Windows" do not belong in the same sentence. Windows is an abomination upon the face of the earth. Have I made myself clear?

If Alltrax were to publish the communication protocol I could get cracking writing a nice Java program to take care of it.

That's a very strange list of volt/amp combinations you have.

Uh.. other features..?

In the Kelly Controls controller - I like that it includes a reverse mode. While that's not needed for a motorcycle (duh) it's really convenient to have that for other vehicles. It hugely simplifies setting up a vehicle to drive in reverse. Ditto including regen in the controller is great, but rather than have a fixed setting for regen, why not make it variable..?

It would be nice to integrate directly with a BMS unit.. there might be an advantage that could be gained. I'm not sure what that would be but it seems that the more data the controller has the more comprehensive a model it could make of vehicle operation and act appropriately.

For example... would an accelerometer or temperature sensor be useful as input data?

Another option for programmability is.. have the embedded controller be driven by a Java program which a vehicle designer could tweak more completely than the existing controllers allow.

- David Herron, The Long Tail Pipe, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Electrified Electra To

LinkOfHyrule
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Re: The ideal controller

"3) Allow user programmable speed profiles (but don't allow them to exceed the dealer programmable top speed)"

That is so weaksauce I can't even articulate it.

The end user needs full and complete access to all aspects of the controller. No limits except for what the components can physically take.

What if someone wants to buy/sell it, but their state's power limit laws are different? If it's higher than the limit, that's fine, but pretty lame that you won't be able to get full performance out of the thing. If the law's limit is lower than the controller's limit, then you can't legally drive it around.

It's reasonable that the dealer should be able to set a limit, but not really a good idea for the end user to not be able to change it.

Ironically, even the smallest controller you listed I'm pretty sure is over all but a few state's moped power limit laws.

One more thing to add: Make it as watertight as possible, but don't you DARE epoxy the thing in.

I'd be happy with that.

Also, what sort of toy? Pot box? Dashboard bobble head? Power tools? Nintendo DS? (please let it be the last one...)

EDIT: Hey, I like Windows. Unless Mac (*rolls eyes*) has undergone a complete paradigm shift since I last used one, I think I'll be sticking with this.

I can't speak for Linux or a few of the other OSs.

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reikiman
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Re: The ideal controller

The end user needs full and complete access to all aspects of the controller. No limits except for what the components can physically take.

Ah... are you sure? Let me ask you, are you happy that you do not have full and complete access to all aspects of your cell phone? Or all aspects of your digital camera?

There are zillions of widgets on the market where the manufacturer designs it as a semi-closed box and makes it hard for the user to get inside to fiddle with the innards. And it seems that most people are okay with that. Most people get along fine using the standard features. I'm quite happy to use only the main control panel of my microwave oven, and have no desire to tweak its innards to change how it operates.

But, on this website many of us are living out in Do-It-Yourself land and we tend to take it apart and tweak and rebuild etc. So, yeah, people like us wanna go into the innards of the controller and tweak away.

- David Herron, The Long Tail Pipe, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
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LinkOfHyrule
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Re: The ideal controller

"Ah... are you sure? Let me ask you, are you happy that you do not have full and complete access to all aspects of your cell phone? Or all aspects of your digital camera?"

*bursts out laughing*

I don't have access to those period!

And maybe I seemed a little...overzealous?

I don't mean LITERALLY complete access like you can get into the debug menu. I just mean that I'd certainly choose the controller that I can alter the performance limits of without having to hack the main IC. There's no real purpose to hard-limiting the controller except to make whatever it's on legal in whatever state you happen to be selling it to.

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LinkOfHyrule
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Re: The ideal controller

I could see that working, but what's to stop owners from working out how to get full access themselves?

That's probably what I'd end up doing :P.

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jdh2550_1
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Re: The ideal controller

"weaksauce" indeed? "incipient" indeed? well at least I got you to reply...

Yes, I'm trying to come up with a controller design that would

(a) let bikes be sold in the widest number of markets
(b) let a dealer feel confident in providing a warranty
(c) give the casual user a fair crack at customization without negating the top two
(d) sure we can give the power geek (like David and Link) full access but, this ain't just software, you can easily fry things then reset back to normal and say "oops, can I have another one on warranty please?"
(e) provide the best set of features that makes economic sense rather than buy at least three systems (controller, paktraker (data logger) and cycle analyst (master controller))

Link and David
- how do YOU propose to stand behind a warranty on a controller that when programmed "right" can fry the batteries, the motor and it's own internals?

David
- what's a better set of voltage/amp combos? I think those are quite reasonable - but you don't and you don't say why?
- to allow different "front ends" is why I want the communication protocol published (personally I want to create a Linux based digital dash like www.dashdaq.com only better and more suited to my needs - I'd likely use something like these: www.gumstix.com). I very much doubt I'd use Java - though I might. A "nice Windows front end" is a nod to the real world market. Have you been drinking too much of Sun's kool-aid?
- rather than throw open the controller code which is likely to make you able to brick the controller, motor and batteries in short order it would be better to spend more time thinking of the interface and exposing the variables you need.
- RS-232 Serial is simple, robust and widely available. Pretty much any PDA can be hooked up to a serial port - including old ones which encourages re-use rather than refuse. Bluetooth would be my second choice. USB third (PDAs are usually USB clients not USB hosts)

See there is a method to my insipient madness! :-)

usatracy
- yeah, all along I kind of expect the "dealer only" mode to be cracked by the geeks (you, Link, David, me). I just don't want to make it too easy. I like the idea of formalizing it and of tracking it. I think I'd have a separate area of NV memory to store a histogram of key values so I could see the percentage of time the vehicle was operated outside of recommended specs and I'd make that as tamper proof as possible
- I like the idea of three levels as well - but what functions belong at which level?

For those that don't want any form of dealer lock out - here's a real world story:
In the 80's Ford released the first Sierra Cosworth - a family sedan with a truly high-performance engine - they were the first to do this in a big way in the family sedan market. Of course it had a turbo, and, it was trivially easy for the hackers to "chip it" - people whacked up the boost pressure and of course ended up "melting the pistons". They then switched back to the original controller and made warranty claims for brand new engines. YOUCH! That cost Ford a packet - and when they figured it out you can bet they were a lot more careful to lock things down in the future. Fortunately for Ford the Cosworth was wildly successful and a great flagship model so they didn't kill it.

I guess it's a question of being careful what you wish for. Just like I've come to realize that the direct, shipped to your door with no PDI business model is certainly cheap and cost effective in the short term but is likely to do more harm than good in the long term. Oops. The trouble is I'll always go for the lower cost option that puts more control in my hands - but I generally know what I'm getting into. Most folks don't - they just want to ride, but at the end of the day I just don't believe that they're really prepared to pay $1000 more for that privilege.

And just for David:
As Written by a Technology Pragmatist: Typed on a Windows PC (XP, Vista isn't worth it), using the Firefox browser (which is better than IE. I write highly successful J2EE enterprise software for my paying job and LAMP based web apps for my startup (so when I'm as rich as Bill you can say, I knew him when...). There is no single right tool for the job so quit seeing everything as a nail for your shiny hammer! Oh yeah, and let's not pretend like Sun really understands open source - they want to be the next Microsoft is all...
Sorry, couldn't resist taking a return crack at the Java zealot - it's all in fun ;-)

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

LinkOfHyrule
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Re: The ideal controller

"Link and David
- how do YOU propose to stand behind a warranty on a controller that when programmed "right" can fry the batteries, the motor and it's own internals?"

Well, when you put it THAT way...

I have no idea. I never even think about warranties when it comes to scooters. Practically everything I get comes from distant lands (like out of state :P), so shipping costs usually make it easier to either get parts to fix it, or a whole new one completely.

If you were actually a local dealer and offered a warranty, I guess it would be best to have it limited by the dealer. If you were a speed freak, then you could sign away your warranty and get full control. Of course, this would also be an offered option at the end of the warranty period.

You'd still have to deal with the types who would hack it for complete access. As long as it's configurable, I don't see any getting around that.

The author of this post isn't responsible for any injury, disability or dismemberment, death, financial loss, illness, addiction, hereditary disease, or any other undesirable consequence or general misfortune resulting from use of the "information" contai

reikiman
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Re: The ideal controller

what's a better set of voltage/amp combos?

48v/100A seems a bit weak. Why keep low voltages limited in amps?

digital dash

Yeah-- I agree completely. This was a piece of advice I sent to Ken Hall (Paktrakr) that an analog-style gauge is far easier to cognitively grasp than is a bunch of characters. I have one of Weather-Tight PakTrakr (r) Display (not installed yet due to snafu's) in an attempt to get a better dashboard display than the stock paktrakr. But the ESR1 interface is designed making it possible to do as Norm has done, and build an embedded CPU+Display to humanize the paktrakr data.

drinking too much of Sun's kool-aid

Puhleeze.. I hated Windows long before joining Sun. Windows is a pretty bad system. I did use Windows for a few years (during the period I thought Windows was gonna take over and I was surrendering to the inevitable) and I have studied the source code for Windows.

Today Sun is far more pragmatic than under the previous CEO. We are now a Windows Reseller and you can buy Sun branded servers that run Windows. Our previous CEO claimed that every company who does that sort of thing gets hollowed out and becomes like Dell, just an assembler of parts with no R&D in its own right. Our current CEO is embracing more of whatever the customer wants is okay with him, while at the same time keeping at the front our role in being technology leaders. Many of my immediate coworkers are using Windows, love Windows, etc, but since I am in the anti-Windows camp I have the privilege of working closely with the open source world. You may not have noticed but this website is run using a PHP platform (Drupal) and while there is a way to run PHP on a Java appserver, that's not what happens here. You'd find me to be pretty darn pragmatic.

Taking a "No Windows" stance is kind of like a "No Gasoline" stance. It takes the same level of commitment and belief and willingness to buck the beliefs of the majority of people around me.

In any case this is a distraction from your main question here. I simply wanted to portray the need to provide client software for more than Windows. I probably went too far over the top with my rant. Mac OS X is an OS with rapidly growing popularity.

I haven't done much exploration of Java in embedded devices. I know this exists though most of the 'small device Java' thoughtspace focuses on cellphones. (JavaME exists in almost every cellphone) I know of only two embedded device CPU's which come out of the box with Java -- the JStamp (jstamp.com) and the Sun SPOT. From the little I know about embedded device Java, it seems every such project starts with porting a Java stack to the CPU/hardware environment. Obviously that has a cost that someone using e.g. a BasicStamp or the Arduino board or that gumstix thing does not have to face, because those devices come with software out of the box. The jstamp is pretty close to some of these other devices. The SunSPOT is interesting as a high-end device and can even be used as a brushed DC motor controller, but it doesn't have display capabilities.

three levels

Let me offer a security model that exists in cellphone devices. I, 3 weeks ago, attended a conference where this was presented: TS-4: Java ME Security Domains and access to API

This describes the way which cellphone makers and cellphone carriers use to lock out the ability of end users to deeply customize their phones. Even though cellphones have Java in them (usually) that hasn't led to a nirvana of being able to install any software you want in your phone. There are ?three? levels of security zone and they use digitally signed JAR's to convey the security priveleges of a specific app. e.g. the security zone for software approved by a Carrier, has to be signed by the carrier. That presentation also goes over some of the various functions available at each security level. You might be able to draw some ideas out of this existing security model.

BTW - in the way of fancy displays for an EV...

Have you recently looked at http://www.aptera.com ??

- David Herron, The Long Tail Pipe, davidherron.com, 7gen.com, What is Reiki
- Electrified Electra To

spinningmagnets
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Re: The ideal controller

Small heat activated fan?

Perhaps an external socket next to the re-gen part of the controllr that a large capacitor can be attached to for those that are interested in that...

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