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Build A G-Force Meter

Just what are the g forces involved in a balls-to-the-wall lap of Mt Panorama? This little beauty will tell you: instantaneous acceleration, braking, cornering; forwards, backwards, sideways... and it's battery operated and completely portable, so you can swap it from car to car!

By Andrew Levido & Nicholas Vinen

Why would you want a g-force meter in your car? Good question. This project comes about because as soon as we published the Digital Spirit Level (August 2011) we had a number of readers contact us to ask “Can this be used as a g-force meter?”. Your wish is our command!

Click for larger image

We know they are fitted to some high-performance vehicles, such as the Nissan GTR, showing the instantaneous acceleration, braking and cornering forces.

These can be used to gauge vehicle and/or driver performance. The faster the car accelerates or corners, the higher the g-force. Ditto for braking – is the driver putting the vehicle under too much stress by braking too late or too hard?

And what about the driver him/herself? Throwing the car around a corner might look pretty spectacular but it’s also pretty stressful on the driver (not to mention the car!).

Of course, you’re unlikely to do a hot lap around Bathurst. But the g force meter can just as easily be used to save petrol and wear & tear  and/or temper youthful exuberance by making your driving as smooth as possible.

G-force meters, more properly called accelerometers, measure force in a particular direction. If your car doesn’t have one of these (and let’s face it, you probably don’t think it does), now you can easily add one!

Actually you might be surprised to find out that most modern cars do contain one or more accelerometers. For example, air-bag systems use them to detect accident severity and so decide whether to inflate the air-bags and if so, how fast.

The engine or body computer may also contain an accelerometer to detect when the vehicle is on a hill, in order to change how the transmission or engine behaves. But in most cases, there’s no display to show you the readings – nor is there any way to capture the data.

Apart from automotive use, there are many other places where g force measurement would be handy. For example – a powerboat crashing over waves: you know you can really get thrown around . . . but just how much?

Or perhaps one of those heart-in-your-mouth thrill rides at theme parks and shows. Just what are the forces involved? (Actually you might be surprised at how low many of them are!)

But if you’ve ever tried to buy a commercial g-force meter (or accellerometer) you would know that for most people, they have been basically unaffordable. We’ve changed that with this little beauty!

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