Managing Air Suspension

At Workshop 12 we love to see clean and simple modifications that look like they were intended to be part of the vehicle as they rolled off the assembly line.  This tends to get more and more difficult as we start to add new accessories to our vehicles to make them unique and also satisfy our drive to make our project car better.  A lot of times this turns into what we like to call “suction cup hell” where we tend to stick things to the windshield with suction cups, clip things in our air vents, hide them away in crevasses or if we’re lucky create a custom mounting solution.

hardware

Brainiac is intended to provide a backbone of technology that allows us to integrate many different accessories together in a clean and simple interface to reduce “suction cup hell” with an added opportunity to revisit some of these traditional modifications to see if there’s room for improvement.  We recently released an update to the Brainiac emulator that provides a new spin on how to handle traditional switches and timed functions for our vehicles.

Now we’re ready to talk more about our goals around integrating aftermarket digital air suspension systems with Brainiac.  We’ve always been a big supporter of air suspension and we have lots of personal friends in the car community that are using these systems from many different suspension vendors.  I know that when we first started talking about adding air suspension to the BatBerry project car that the overwhelming advice was to go with a digital air management system.  The ability to simply program in presets for different heights for different scenarios was such a blessing vs the older way of manual adjustment with dashboard switches trying to adjust corner pressures.

But this left us with a couple of challenges:

  • How were we going to integrate the air suspension control panel into our vehicle.  We have a specific interior look that we want to maintain so propping up a controller somewhere wasn’t going to do.  But we also didn’t want to have to tuck the controller away because it would be a pain to try and dig it back out again every time we wanted to make an adjustment
  • We also found that we’re creatures of habit.  Our travel routes are typically very similar on a day-to-day basis and we found that we would be making the same adjustments at the same locations regularly (That’s right, I’m talking to you “speed bumps” in the grocery store parking lot)

Turns out these were similar challenges facing many different air suspension owners.  We decided to tackle this challenge by integrating existing air management controllers with Brainiac.

The existing air controller circuitry has a protocol going back and forth with the air management ECU.  Some systems are more sophisticated than others and provide a range of information, but at the most basic level the controller can adjust each corner’s height/psi and ask the ECU to save and/or seek to a preset.

In some cases these systems also provide the current pressure of each corner as well as the air tank pressure.  This protocol allows Brainiac to also communicate with the air management ECU as a replacement for the controller.  Not only does this allow us to provide the same functions of the existing physical controller, but it also gives us the opportunity to add some more conditions to the adjustments that weren’t previously available.

airsuspension

In the picture above you can see that we have the ability to add multiple height presets based on simple touch activation or based on conditions.  We’ve also created a pinch-to-zoom grid to adjust the 9 different zones of the vehicle.  While pinch-to-zoom is fun, you can still dial-in each corner manually by tapping the pressure for the corner to receive a traditional up/down button adjustment.

Since Brainiac has access to multiple inputs such as the accelerometer, vehicle speed and GPS it allows us to give the driver more options on when they would like to use a preset height.  Two inputs that we’ve started work on are speed and geolocation.  Brainiac allows the user to activate a height preset when a certain condition is met like when my speed is greater than 90 km/h, or I’m 500 ft from my house and about to pull into my driveway.

There’s lots of applications to explore, but to start we’re focusing on speed and location.  We’ll leave the corner adjustment based on g-forces at the track to a later date 🙂

For now, you can check out a quick glimpse of a simple diagnostics test of integrating Brainiac software with an existing digital air management system

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