A young engineer at Ford is on a mission to demystify the manual transmission—and his tools include a 3D printer, a tablet computer, and an Xbox 360 controller. Zach Nelson printed out a shift knob and popped the Xbox's vibrating mechanism inside. Using Ford's open-source software and a tablet, he was able to gather information on a Mustang's engine speed, accelerator position, and more, Wired reports. That made it possible to program the shifter to vibrate at helpful moments—identifying, for instance, the moment when shifting will ensure top fuel efficiency.
So what do the experts think of all this? At MotorTrend, Scott Burgess calls the design "elegantly simple," and he applauds Ford's open-source software, called OpenXC. "The open-source philosophy creates a new kind of collaboration for an automaker," he writes. Nelson was able to make the gadget in about three months, and the design will be available online. Indeed, as Popular Mechanics puts it, "code monkeys—not grease monkeys—are the future of car modification." Click for one carjacker who could have really used Nelson's invention. (Read more Ford stories.)