Dave Phipps has been building remote control systems for his 1969 Pontiac GTO for years. His masterpiece? Using a system called RedEye to remotely control the car's ignition, radio, doors and more with an iPod Touch.
Dave is both a car guy and an electronics nerd. He's been chasing sparks for decades and had installed a reel-to-reel sound system in his Fairlane Wagon capable of extralegal volumes back in the 70s. But his true passion is GTOs. He's been buying, rebuilding, and customizing '69 Goats for over 25 years, counting 14 different cars to his name. He pulled the bones of this car out of a barn in 1990 and paid all of $400 for it. While not much more than a cab and frame he set to work restoring it and building it into something he could tinker with.
There's isn't a single scrap of original wiring in this GTO. After he purchased the car, Phipps stripped it down to the frame and completely rewired it with a car wide network tying every device and switch to a central 110 block, much more common in structured data and control systems. With this block in place it allowed him to tie in remote control systems starting with a simple key fob. Following the key-fob he created a control system using a 2.4gHz cell phone which used the speed-dial to create timed events like putting up the top and rolling up the windows. The next upgrade was voice control, using a Bluetooth unit tied to a cell phone to create complete voice control over the car. All of that still works, but his latest — and coolest upgrade yet — uses an iPod Touch.
The wizardry Dave's brewed up this time is based on a system from ThinkFlood called "RedEye." RedEye is a hardware and software combo which communicates with iPods over wifi and relays the signals to whatever you want to control. Normally that means giving infrared signals to home theater components, but Phipps had other ideas. He set up the software to do things like turn on the ignition and start the car, pop the servo-actuated doors and trunk, roll down the windows and put down the top, control the radio, arm the alarm and even rev the engine from a distance. In order to do this, Dave had to be a bit creative. First thing up was to create a local wifi-network for the car which is based on a normal Linksys router which connects to the Redeye controller. The Redeye interfaces with a central relay box which controls the car or runs a direct infra-red line to other elements like the stereo system. Of course some of these things require secondary servos and controllers, but all of it ties back into the car's control network.
The cool part about all of this is it's basically off-the-shelf stuff reworked and repurposed to create a really unique car. There isn't a unique circuit board anywhere in the car, so if you had the tenacity it's not impossible to create something along the same lines. Since Dave's the kind of guy never happy to leave well enough alone, his next project is to install a USB-tunable electronic fuel injection system on the upgraded 428 cubic-inch V8, install a customizable heads up display and who knows, maybe he'll use the iPod's accelerometer to steer and brake one day.
While we're normally a big fan of the crank-window and manual controls, we've got to salute the ingenuity and dedication to the task Phipps shows in building this technologically-advanced remote control system. We approve.