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Discussion Starter #1
If you could have the ultimate personal lap timer, what features would you want it to include? Lap Times of course. MPH readout? Save and compare laps from different runs? Graph and print out lap times? Other ideas?

What price would you be willing to pay for the Ultimate Personal Lap Timer?

Note: This would NOT be a scoring and timing system (ala AMB) but a personal timing system such as the Orion unit.
 

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There are only two things I would change from the ORION unit,the ability to count more laps than 60 and it should include a tripod of some sort.Other than that its close to a ultimate deal already.
I fully beleive that eventually one of the radio manufactures will incorporate a lap counter in the radio,Futabe already has one in the radio but its hard to hit that button every lap at the same time.
I guess the ultimate lap counter would be one that counts laps for me whenevr my radio is on.
 

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While I don't think this might be what you had in mind, I would love to have instantaneous car velocity recorded every 1/10th of a second or so, to see if the different pinion I just put in the car is really helping, or if that chassis setup change I made really is getting me through the turns faster. The most I would (like to) pay for something like this would be $250.
 

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Dan: Yes, you do ;) I'm looking at alternatives to the Linx RX/TX's for mine now (need something smaller and cheaper), and I'm moving away from the idea of magnetics. I'm still not set on how it's going to work, but after discussing it with some electronics engineers, it really did sound like it'll be a lot easier (and will actually work) doing it all with RF, much like AMB does.

Hankster: Sorry for being off-topic. I don't think I'd be very interested in another personal system as the Orion one does fit the requirements "ok". If you're looking for something to sell, feel free to sell Dan's FreeLap, or mine (I'm still not even decided on a name.. heh), when they're done.


-Nutter
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm not looking to compete with AMB because I don't think it can be done.... I've researched it. But I think that there can be improvements in a personal lap timing system. Besides, this is just a personal project that others could build if they want. Just trying to get some ideas on what some would like to see on a personal timing system.
 

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Hank, heres mine. A small unit I can stick to my radio that would collect the data and have a small screen to show lap times. It would also beep as I completed each lap. After I am done practicing I could take this unit and connect it to some kind of PDA and send the data to it. I would like a program to do exactly what nascar does when they are qualifing. I want it to show me where my car is good and where I am slow at. I also want to compare between my other friends data they have collected to. Sounds like a lot but it is probably possible to do now.

Craig
 

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I own an Orion LCS, so like others, I'll use that as my starting point... (some of my "wishes" have already been mentioned, but I'll recap them here for completeness...)

* Either a built in tripod or a way to attach it to the transmitter would be great -- transmitter mount might be cool, as it would make it easier to hear YOUR LCS when more than one is in use or the envrionment is noisy... (edit) -- Tranmitter mount might also solve a problem with "missed laps". when the receiver is mounted low (even with a tripod, etc.), it is possible for another vehicle to block the IR signal and cause a missed lap. A side issue would be the "range" of the IR signal, as some driver's stands are pretty far away from the track (vertically, etc.)...

* Smaller receiver (necessary only if transmitter attached).

* Battery monitor in receiver unit (I've had the unit "die" when a battery went dead in the middle of a run).

* More memory in reciever unit (more than 60 laps for sure for Oval racers) -- maybe store a DAYS practice sessions for later download at home (don't have to drag a laptop to the track for downloading/saving EVERY individual run one at a time).

* USB port for universal link to PC...? (I hate one of a kind cables that only the vendor can sell you...)

* Easier changing of "transponder" ID for the receiver -- right now you have to scroll through 999 numbers on the LCS to change numbers...

That's it for now...
 

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This is something I have thought about quite a bit.

Things I would like to see is:

1. The ability to record more than one car at a time
2. The ability to record sector times (via repeaters or something)
3. Some onboard DAQ functions (measure motor temp, current draw)
4. Be able to transfer laptimes to Palm or Laptop via cable or IR
5. Be able to turn off that annoying beeping :)
6. The stuff others have mentioned - tripod, battery level indicator, keep several practice sessions, etc.

I dont have a good sense of what I would pay, but R/C people are notorious for speeding LOTS of $$$$ if they think it will help

Maybe we can get your Ultimate Lap Counter to work with Dan's new timing system.

SS
 

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Tri-Pod mount for LCS

I took a piece of 1/4" thick plastic about 1" x 1" drilled and tapped a 1/4 x 20 hole in the center of it and shoe goo'd it to the bottom of my LCS box. Wal*Mart sells a really cool "Mini Tri-pod" for about $5.00. Thread this into the block and you are all set to go .
 

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It would be nice if it could tell you sections where you were slower. This way you can see what parts of the track and what obsticles you are having a problem with.
 

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Interval times, so you could know what chassis changes did to the car in the corner, Line tracking, so you could see variance in your line on the track to help with the consistancy, tripod, battery indicator, more memory, lap top capability, DAQ features like battery temp, current draw, motor temp, maybe some sort of measure of wheel spin? some of these things are asking a lot I know, but you did say ultimate. I'd be willing to pay upwards of 500 bucks, after all motor dynos cost over 500, you chassis is more important than anything, so why should a chassis dyno be around or over 500.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Thanks for the feedback as it is useful. First and foremost, I want this to be a personal lap timer and affordable. Because of that there will be no DAQ functions, no multiple car counting and no telemetry. Any or all of these would make it too expensive for the purpose it is being designed for (personal lap timing).

With the idea that some think are important, mainly sector timing, I’ve rethought things a little. Plans are at this time to put the actual lap-timing unit in the car with the IR emitter trackside. This solves a number of problems. One is that an unlimited number of cars can run at one time and no one has to worry about "channel numbers".

Second is you could place a number of IR transmitters around the track to get your sector timing.

Third is that the IR transmitters will be small, smaller then the size of a 4 cell pack. They will also be inexpensive and the batteries should last for many many hours. This also allows for easy mounting on a tripod using just servo tape or Velcro.

My guess at this time is you'll be able to record about 500 "events". An event would be one timed section. If you have one IR transmitter (for full lap times) that would mean 500 laps. If you have 3 IR transmitters, that would mean 166 laps... etc.

While a "special" cable would be used to download the data into a laptop, instructions would be given on how to make the cable and they'll be pretty simple to make. There may also be an LCD option so you can look at lap times without a PC.

Not sure if I want to add a "buzzer" to it yet, might make it an option.

I have no plans on selling built units. All the info to make it will be freely available so if someone wanted to, they could download the PC board template, the programming and component list for free and buy/build everything themselves. They can also buy the PC board and components from me and build it. Hopefully the convenience of buying everything in one place makes it worth it to buy from me, but it will not be forced on anyone.

My guess is you should be able to buy everything for well under $100 and most likely under $75.

Once this is done and working properly, I have other projects in the planning stages!!!!
 

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personal lap counter

how about dyno tuning the motor during your run? everytime it counts a lap it gives a dyno reading as well then you can really setup a car to that tracks conditions. (just a thought):D
 

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Hankster, I have to question your choice of IR 'gates'. IR is acceptable for indoor onroad racing, but I wouldn't count it as reliable enough to use outdoors on a muddy offroad track where it's quite likely that there will be mud covering the transponders IR reciever. Sun light also affects IR very badly, and it has quite a limited range in the sun.

I know the Orion one uses IR too, but personally I wouldn't do it "because they do". It may very well work, but my opinion of it is that it isn't reliable enough for an "ultimate" solution as you are looking to create. This is why both Dan and I have been looking at different solutions for our lap counting systems.
Myself, I'm going with a solution much like the AMB 20 system with some modifications to make it simpler, although at this stage I may still go with a solution closer to the new AMB system. Several other solutions have been considered, including magnetism/the Hall Effect, ultrasonic, and of course IR, but they all had their draw backs/complications. Magnetism was simply unworkable, ultrasonic was too expensive (it may be ok for your needs though, as you only require 1 transponder), and IR was ruled out for the reasons I've just mentioned.


-Nutter
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Why? Because who is going to let you bury pickup loops all over their track? I doubt that very many track would and I can bet you 100% that our local track (R & L) wouldn't.

Besides that, you going to string pickup loops under other people's carpet tracks and under asphalt tracks? Overhead bridges won't work, that's obvious. I'm, not doing it "because they do" but because of the reasons I just pointed out. IR will work fine in 95%+ situtaions.

You are making a full lap counting and timing system. Mine is a personal timing timing system that will be very portable. Anyways, you do yours your way and I'll do mine my way... that's what different ideas are all about. :D
 

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If you are planning to place emitters in various sections of the track, it would not be terribly difficult to build a crude but effective GPS system. You could use RF emitters instead of IR. The emitters would simply emitt a number (designating which emitter sent the signal) and a timestamp (accurate to a small fraction of a millisecond). The onboard receiver would record the number and timestamp combos while the car raced around the track. Then you could download all of that data into a laptop to see telemetry, speed through various sections of the track, etc. The computer could use the difference between the onboard receiver's timestamp and the timestamp in the sent signals to determine the distance the car was from the emitter that sent the signal. It would not be terribly difficult to implement. The onboard receiver would need to be able to record quite a few samples, though. If you had 4 emitters (one on each corner of the track) and each emitter sent several data pairs per second, the total number of data points recorded by the onboard receiver would get large quickly. All the receiver would need to do is compute the difference between its own timestamp and the timestamp of the received data packet, and then record the emitter number and timestamp difference. So each recorded entry would probably amount to one short int and one long int.

The really neat thing is that the computer would be able to figure out the track layout based on the information recorded by the onboard receiver. The computer operator would not need to tell the computer where the emitters would located or what the track looked like. The data alone should be able to provide all of that information.

Also, this design could easily be used to replace the AMB stuff. The onboard receiver could append its own transponder ID to the data packet and then repeat that data to the lapcounting computer. Then the lapcounting computer would know exactly where every car was, how many laps each car had, lap times, etc. The lapcounting computer could even display a graphic showing the cars going around the track while the race was going. With this design, the onboard receiver would not even need to have much memory, since all it is doing is receiving signals, appending data, and then sending signals. So the design could be built with an optional memory socket (like compactflash) and then racers would have the option to record all of their race data if they wanted to study it, but they would not have to incurr the expense of the memory if they did not want to.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Transmitting and receiving "data" is A LOT more expensive then just using an IR detector and onboard processing. No way to keep it under the $100 target price if RF is used.

The big problem with RF is that it is omnidirectional so it is very hard to control the area of the track where it would be picked up. Let's remember that you may want to cover an 8' wide area of the track for counting the lap and the other side of the board is only a couple inches away. It is diffecult, if not impossible, to tell the RF receiver to only pick up the signal 0 to 8 foot from the becon and not 8'2" away.

This isn't something I've just thought of. I've looked at this long before Orion ever came out with their system. I've looked at IR, RF, magnetic and even laser communications. IMHO, IR is the way that will work best for what I am trying to do.
 

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hankster sounds like you are on the right track to me. All I need to know is how soon can we expect it. I will be the first to step up.
 
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