Old Vox – Car Data

[I used to post some stuff over on vox.com when it was still up and running, at nodapoints.vox.com. The material is old and out of date but I wanted to re-post a few older pieces so I can reference them and update them.]

[The first here is about some early thoughts on cars and data]

Car Data

Nov 15, 2006
This is an email I sent to the friendlycrowds.com mailing list a few months ago:

The other night I went out for a drink with a friend, he is the
technical director for a UK startup that deals with car industry
data. A few pints in and I was raving about how I wanted to park my car and then download the days car data to my computer (bluetooth, wifi whatever).

I want to know how far and where i have driven (ok, that I can get from a GPS) but how about other data, how much fuel has been used, maybe the temperature of the engine over the day (capture problems before they arise).

Now my friend reckons no one would really want that. In theory the car manufacturers could offer this (look at the data that pours out of formula one racing cars) but they dont want to open up access into the car network. I can understand why, someone standing on a motorway flyover could, maybe through a bad bit of code bring all the Fords to a halt on that bit of road. Probably not good ;)

But I reckon that people would be interested in being able to get
that data. Not everybody but a lot and increasingly so. In five years time a lot of people would want this. Maybe it will only be the middle class car owners, but then they are often the families who own more than one car.

What does everyone think? would you want to be able to access this information? would it be useful? would you, maybe agree to parts of the data being aggregated (how about you got a discount on the London Congestion Charge if you shared more of your car telemetary).

Maybe I need to persuade him it should be his next start-up.

I had a couple of responses, B.K. DeLong has been thinking about this a bit and has a couple of blog entries:



and Andrew Turner sent back a nice set of links to help build some stuff:

You can get OBD modules (bluetooth, usb and/or logging) which will
record this data and you can either stream it to a computer or
handheld device in the car.

Logging & USB: http://www.davisnet.com/drive/products/drive_product.asp?pnum=08221

Bluetooth: http://www.vitalengineering.co.uk/




This is definitely already doable – just a DIY solution right now.
Here’s a cool demo Interface for this kind of solution:


Also – Make magazine is putting out a controller board that includes a CAN interface – so that could be really neat for doing this kind of


Of course, no companies are doing this yet, it is still the realm of car hackers and data gatherers. I still think this is a ripe business area, one that can produce lots of benefits.