Driving Simulator Prototype Update – Moki’s Maiden Voyage

A lot has happened since this website went “live” in Feb 2017; it is past time for an update, so here it is. Progress has been good, but not as much as I wanted. Primarily impacted by the sudden passing in April of my good friend and business partner of 22 years, Phil Caldwell. Being his Executor, and we were also at the front end of a process to substantially reposition the engineering project business, has added a lot of tasks to my plate. However, the fire has never burned brighter than now to finish what we started, and get some great outcomes for our fellow Australians and the planet to boot. But distracting? You bet!

Sometimes losing myself in simulator tasks has been good therapy to deal with Phil’s passing, and sometimes they get ignored for days on end. Still, a couple of weeks ago, my eldest son Chris was the patsy that took it for a maiden voyage. It went pretty well, all things considered. Of course highlighting a couple of areas for immediate improvement, but we got 80% of the way there on the first go. Not bad… You can see a short video of this near the top of the Moki Prototype page. Chris wants to try out the passenger side next, and go for “a real ride”…!

I had a go too, and Chris was actually a better operator than I had been! One thing I was struck with is how suitable for motorcycle use this concept is likely to be, whereas I had been thinking car and motorcycle application would be vastly different, but it seems maybe not that different after all. The concept, as patented, includes quick change operator modules – I could easily see this being a swap from a car to a bike module, but not a priority to investigate any time soon. To explain a little, a KEY concept that has been patented (pending) is that of mechanically locking the simulator platform around a fixed point of rotation, wherever exactly that may be, and it doesn’t matter what the vehicle type is. The current prototype is just one way of doing that. I have figured out (and put in the patent) much smarter ways to do this than ‘ol Number One sitting in my shed. But the concepts of this prototype are still very sound.

You may remember the whole point of writing up a patent and going public in the first place was to put a submission to the NSW Parliamentary Staysafe Committee Inquiry into Driver Education? Submissions have been made public here – mine is #10. There are some great submissions there and I may do my own summary of them later, we’ll see, but I can definitely see there is some really good work being done by others in this space. The Committee has held 2 days of public hearings and so far I haven’t heard anything about what they are doing / have done with my submission; I will contact them for an update shortly. Shame if nothing came of it as going public took an easy couple of months out of my progress!

Getting to the maiden voyage was a bit of a journey, particularly wrt getting the hydraulics right. Being a prototype, you want maximum flexibility to ensure high likelihood of being able to identify and tune around the key parameters to give maximum prospects of success. But it turns out, that stuff costs! And has blown the budget, so now on a shoestring / spending money I shouldn’t. That’s OK, for now, as I can’t see anything other than minor expenditure coming as I believe all the big $ items needed are now here. The last thing that costs was to send the hydraulic powerpack 10m further away, under the house, to make it just “a distant hum”, compared to the conversation wrecking item it had been. Maybe there will be an oil cooler, but if I can only operate it for a few hours at a time that will be OK too. From work so far, it should be good for at least 8 hours continuous, so not really a drama.

Since the maiden voyage, Moki has been anchored better to the concrete floor and a silicone elastomeric membrane went in to ensure that “clunkiness” disappeared. I also have better control potentiometers, and the meters have turned up to fill all the empty holes in the control box. Not fitted yet as I need to have a spurt of “therapy needs” to take me away from that plate-load of new tasks. But Moki can operate “on call”, for now, and I will get back to doing these mods then get into serious testing to get the accumulator setup and enjoy the whole new boost that will give to already pretty damn good performance. THEN comes the job to automate it, which I had hoped to start on in April – but now if it gets started in July would be brilliant, but unlikely!

Sounds like the next update is coming in August … Let’s hope there is lots of good stuff to tell about the progress by then! Thank you for your interest….Vince Sunter