Reading driving data via the on-board diagnostic port

Programming Snapshot – Driving Data

© Lead Image © Rene Walter,

© Lead Image © Rene Walter,

Article from Issue 202/2017

A connector plugged into the diagnostic port of Mike Schilli's cars sends current information such as speed, acceleration, and fuel economy via the mobile phone network to a cloud service. An app and a programmable API read out the data and provide stunning visualizations.

I find it absurd to invest half a year's salary on a new car. Instead of more expensive German craftsmanship, I opt for second-hand Japanese cars with screaming VTEC engines from the 1990s. Alas, this type of car won't get you the electronic bells and whistles nowadays commonly associated with the "connected car." In my adopted home of San Francisco, a startup company called Automatic has developed a connector to the car's on-board diagnostic (OBD) port [1] (Figure 1) that continually reads data from the car's on-board computer and feeds the data either to the driver's cell phone or straight to an account in the cloud via the 3G mobile network.

Figure 1: The Automatic adapter is plugged into the car's OBD-II port and wirelessly transmits the engine data over the 3G network.

The data is collated on Automatic's servers. From this data, the driver can then check out their driving route, how often they stepped on the gas like a madman or hit the brakes in the same way, how much gasoline the car consumed, and what the trip cost.


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