Industrial Automation Controls Custom Car

Multiple functions on this custom car—from raising the hood and trunk to the controlling the electrical systems and windshield wipers—are powered by industrial automation components.

Hints of the 1986 Ford XF Falcon can still be seen when viewing the purple and red custom car known as “The Psycho”. And though it’s clear from outward appearances that this car has been radically transformed from its original delivery specs, what’s not so obvious is how different this car is with respect to its operation.

Greg Maskell, the Australia-based designer of "The Psycho", turned to industrial automation technologies to control many of the car’s functions. Underneath the dash, along with the high-tension coil packs of the ignition, are a Rockwell Automation MicroLogix PLC and a ProSoft Technology Industrial Hotspot. The 802.11 a/b/g HotSpot is ProSoft Technology’s RLX2-IHW industrial-grade wireless Ethernet device rated up to 54 Mbps with Power over Ethernet and serial encapsulation.

The controller and Industrial Hotspot are connected to a Rockwell Automation PanelView Plus 600 HMI through a Hirschmann Spider 4TX switch. The ProSoft Technology Industrial Hotspot is used for remote programming of the PLC and HMI.

Though the use remote controls via a mobile device in custom cars is not new, Maskell (who produces two the three custom cars a year) says this is the first time he has incorporated the use of a PLC.

The PLC controls all of the car’s electrical systems including “start up, shut down, fuel pump, thermo fans, water pump, windscreen wipers, windows and the stereo,” Maskell says. Without the use of industrial automation controls technology, remote control of all these functions in the car would have required 18 separate toggle switches.

Maskell relied on Gary Lomer, a Melbourne, Australia-based industrial electrician with 30 years of experience, to build the controls system for the custom car based on his industrial automation knowledge. Lomer currently works for Visy (a paper, packaging and recycling company), but has also worked at General Motors in Melbourne, as well as in many other industries. “I used my industrial background to select components that were proven with solid and reliable software and hardware,” Lomer said.

Working on "The Psycho" was an after-hours job for Lomer, who took on the extra work because “it was something different and challenging that didn’t come along every day.”

Maskell said he and the owners of the car are very happy with the performance of the equipment. He plans on using the PLC/ProSoft industrial wireless car control system more often when a customer decides they want to control their car remotely. He adds that “we are working on using ProSoft’s i-View iPhone app to operate the car via an iPhone.”

In just one car show in Australia, “The Psycho” won Top Paint, Top Undercarriage, Top Engine Bay, Top Interior, Top Coupe, Top Five, Top Street Machine and Australia’s Coolest Ride. It is considered by many to be the Top Show Car in Australia today.

More in Control