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Cars of the future to be Arduino compatible

Priya KuberFebruary 24th, 2012

If you envision an open future, sustainable development through community contribution seems to be the way out. With open platforms both across hardware and software freely interacting with each other, car makers are finding a viable way to improvise the already developing intelligence of the cars.

Ford (and other automakers) envision future cars with high tech infotainment systems galore where car dashboards could have downloadable app’s just like todays smart phones and tablets. With the OpenXC platform Ford is creating a channel for open collaboration with 3rd party application developers, allowing them to use cars like the Ford Focus to prototype their gizmos.

The OpenXC platform is an open source hardware and software stack which allows 3rd parties to connect self-created gadgets to an OpenXC-compliant car.

If “your car is as easy to program as your smartphone,” it stands to reason that future cars could generate as much innovation and excitement as todays smartphones are generating.

The company announced last week they were making the OpenXC source code available, in beta form, to developers and universities around the world. Ford demonstrated a sample third-party mobile app created with the OpenXC toolkit at NASSCOM India Leadership Summit, held last week in Mumbai India.

The OpenXC platform is being developed in collaboration with Bug Labs, a New York based developer of small computer hardware building blocks meant to help organizations build the “Internet of Things.” This concept looks toward a day if/when all objects will have embedded computerization, with ubiquitous connections to the Internet to share data and information enabling large scale applications to be built upon the data coming from all the connected gizmos.

The documentation on the OpenXC Platform website describes installing small hardware module, attaching it to the OBD-II port so the module can read CANBUS messages. The hardware module interfaces the OBD-II/CAN bus to the more common USB interface, and sends data from the car to the software running on the OpenXC software platform. The software part of the OpenXC platform runs on Arduino or Android platforms, and provides to software measurements of vehicle operation such as brake pedal status, engine speed, latitude and longitude, steering wheel angle, and vehicle speed. The documentation does not provide methods for the software application to send commands to the car, only to receive data from the car.

This is unlikely to result in consumer applications right away, if only because interfacing to the OBD-II port is not exactly a user-friendly experience. Ford is positioning this as an outreach to application developers. Ford asks us to ponder these sorts of questions: What if “user-facing hardware and software” (such as the dashboard) was based on open software stacks, where car owners could purchase and install add-ons as easily as they buy smart phone apps today? What if the infotainment systems were easily user upgradeable? What if you could transfer a high tech gizmo easily from car-to-car?

[Suitably edited via: Torquenews and BugLabs]

10 Responses to “Cars of the future to be Arduino compatible”

  1. Inprogress Says:

    I’m sorry Ford (and other OEM’s)…but whoop-di-dooo! The only good bit out of this might come from Inveniteers figuring out where the obsolescence is designed into the product and remove it.

  2. ViennaMike Says:

    “interfacing to the OBD-II port is not exactly a user-friendly experience”: Actually it’s not hard at all. The OBD-II port may be a bit hidden, but it’s typically just under the dashboard and you just plug the device into it. If they are providing the device, it’s no more difficult than plugging a printer or monitor into a PC.

    By the way, there’s already an open source Arduino project for interfacing to the OBD-II: One of the big problems with doing this without the cooperation of the automaker is that many of the codes are proprietary, and have to be reverse-engineered.

  3. Jean Says:

    Opening CAN networks, OK. But this doesn’t mean anything “arduino-related” to me. It is even a bit scaring as this people people empowered to “improve” their car easily. And I don’t want a Ford autopilot prototype in the car in front of me.

  4. SECUduino Says:


    We are doing some projects with CAN Bus and Arduino here =>


    SECUduino Team

  5. dcuartielles Says:


    can you please explain a little bit more about SECUduino? It is a board to use with an Arduino board that connects to the CAN port controlling the car? It would be nice if you made a better explanation on this thread as there will be people interested in your design.



  6. SECUduino Says:


    We have designed a board (“brick”) which has a CAN bus controller+driver. It’s possible to add RS485, RS232, microSD and 2Mb atmel memory as well.
    The schematics are
    The CAN controller uses SPI bus and can be used whatever microcontroller with this bus.
    The safer thing is just used it as acquisition of the different parameters you can sniff (previous reverse engineering them) from a road car, but you can also control some stuff. You can find an example rolling the windows up and down of my car => and the code is in the repository.
    There are some other projects as control the FIS (dashboard display) of a Seat Leon, 0 to 100 kph using a easy Finite State Machine library, OBD,…
    I’m sorry because the web is a mixture between spanish and english. I wrote a FAQ with some useful stuff for CAN Bus networks, but you need to use the translator if you are not a spanish speaker.


    SECUduino Team

  7. Jonathan Schemoul Says:

    Wow, woud be nice to have more open electronics in cars.

    However, wouldn’t chips like the stm32 (for processing power, when the motor is on) or msp430 (for low power, like on car idle) be more suited to that kind of use than the avr ?
    I mean the arduino IDE can be ported quite easily to those, and electronicaly it would make more sense IMHO.

  8. RechargeCar Says:

    Very cool article! We hope to be involved in similar projects and have started by designing some hardware to make it easier. We are calling our project the ‘Macchina’.

    Macchina is an Arduino Mega 2560 + OBD2 interface (all 5 protocols) + automotive specs + bigger power supply.

    We plan on launching a developer program quite soon where we will host code, share information, and collaborate in an effort to better understand and take more control over our vehicles. Especially electric vehicles!

    Let us know if you want to help out.

    -RechargeCar Team.

  9. Ralph Says:

    Conference keynote by Bug Labs Peter Semmelhack and Ford’s “What’s next guy” K. Venkatesh Prasad at EclipseCon 2012

  10. Jean Says:

    Can you also send audio thru the SecuDuino towards your car to the autoradio ? That would be fun.

    Jonathan, unfortunately what you say proved wrong. Many people think it is easy to “port Arduino IDE” and look at the reality : both Wiring, Pinguino, Maple are unable to keep the stuff consistent because hey it’s open source, community-supported, and there is no funding, hence no time available.

    I think that MSP430 is going to die soon. Too costly as compared to stm32. Is the latter a consumption issue for the car ? It also has power-down modes. Alternatively, other ARM Cortex chips (EFM) claim to have less consumption.

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