V-Net --Plug and Play Universal CAN Bus

Year of completion: 2002 (New Modules still worked on)
Purchased/Utilized By:
Competition Systems Inc. (RacePak),Lake Forest, CA
Application:  Data Acquisition in Auto-Racing and Auto Development

V-NET hardware was developed by Competition Systems. V-NET is an extremely versatile Plug-And-Play digital bus for connecting various data acquisition components such as sensors, gauges, data acquisition controllers, and PC interfaces.

My contribution included concept proposal and implementation of universal programming protocol for V-NET components and entire PC-Side support within RacePakChart.

The idea of V-NET was to expand CAN bus protocols to allow Plug-And-Play capability. The CAN bus was intended for OEM use and does not directly support flexible, user-expandable systems. 

What was needed for the racing and auto-development market was the ability to sell universal components (say analog inputs and gauges), allow the user to connect them to variety of sensors (pressure, temperature, position, etc.), have the user scale it into engineering units, and then send it to the bus in a way that could be easily logged by logging boxes or a PC, or displayed by gauges.

The customer simply buys a number of universal input sensor modules, a number of gauges, a PC interface box, and plugs them all together. Windows configuration utility built into RacePakChart will scan the bus and build the configuration file describing all the components. If the components are new (not configured), the user can enter all hardware options, scaling parameters, etc and then make the connections between various components all from the Windows software.

This allows unprecedented capability to instrument an entire custom race car in several hours.

But there is more to V-NET. Rather than having to write a PC device driver for every new V-NET component developed, a special universal high-level language was developed for describing new all components and interfacing with them. A new V-NET component may have many different configuration parameters not used by any other component. No problem the hardware designer simply creates the high level language description of the new device, lists all its capabilities and user-friendly description of them and places it in the database of the V-NET devices. RacepakChart software matches the V-NET devices found on the bus with the proper high-level description files in the database, compiles the description files into hardware drivers, and provides the user with easy to understand configuration boxes. The V-Net hardware description files serve, therefore, as all-in-one hardware drivers, documentation, and user-help information storage for each device.  Furthermore, new and exotic V-Net devices can be easily built without need to write new code for PC software.

V-NET is much, much more than a typical CAN bus found on production cars. All V-NET gauges for example have data logging and replay capabilities, user programmable limit settings, scaling setting, linearization settings, filtering setting, etc.  Capability also exists to have special calculation components that will collect data from several different sources and produce an output according to user-programmed formula. A Detailed description of the V-Net bus concept and all the various modules built, to date, can be found on the RacePak Website.