Go-Kart telemetry and data logging, a road map

A data acquisition system is something I’ve had in mind for a couple of years now. It comprises both electronics and motorsport and would be more tan enough for any Thesis in engineering. A good design must be both versatile and modular which, if achieved, could lead to a finished product able to compete against those systems of long time established companies such as AiM, Alfano or MoTeC. But even if it does not become a commercial success, nor a success at all, it will be a great opportunity to go deep into electronics.

GPS has become quite a buzz as it allows to dispense with trackside beacons and wheel speed sensors amongst other less obvious benefits. Besides, one can find inexpensive GPS modules that operate at at least 10 Hz for under $100. This way, a GPS unit can be a cost effective alternative to the traditional lap timing system, as virtual start/finish lines can be set to calculate the lap time and indicate the start of each lap. If accuracy is a concern, a typical average race speed would be well in excess of 30 m/s, minimising any errors to around 1/10th of a second [1].

So, a GPS module would be a first step into a modular telemetry system which would consist of:

  • ARM based Arduino Due as the heart of the system (~$50),
  • GPS module of 10 Hz update rate ($40 to $90),
  • microSD socket for data storage, and
  • RF module.

That so far is something that could be achieved using a smartphone which, by the way, I intend to test next weekend using my Galaxy S2 and the test mule shown in the picture that heads this post. Of course, a smartphone is quite more expensive than what I’ve listed above, and can not be connected to any analog nor digital sensor device. That is, it can not handle linear motion potentiometers or LVDTs to measure shock absorber displacement nor read temperature and pressure transducers to keep track of engine performance; all of which is something I could implement in future versions of the system.

A Mark II of the system would likely include:

  • Cylinder head temperature sensor, and
  • engine RPM,

and a Mark III:

  • accelerometers and gyros, and
  • LCD display with essential information.


[1] Clarke, C. 2013. Stats and Logs. Racecar Engineering, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 49-52.