Driving The Car Without Going Anywhere

This video game controller is a factory fresh VW. Much like the racing simulator from earlier in the week, the video game data is being displayed on the instrument panel. This takes us to a much higher level now because control for the game is taken from the car’s CANbus using and ODB-II connector. If you don’t speak in automotive jargon, that means that the sensor readings from the steering wheel, shifter, and pedals are being picked up and exported as joystick commands to the PC running the driving game. The only place the experience uses a substitute for the real thing is the sound, which is being played through speakers instead of emanating from under the hood. Looks like you just need to add a projector and screen to your garage in order to turn it into the hottest new gaming device.

34 thoughts on “Driving The Car Without Going Anywhere

  1. Very cool although expensive controller. The steering seems pretty loose, is the car on? Also, for more realism you could have the airbags deploy if you crash in the game! :) j/k

  2. Gotta have shakers under the seat and a great woofer system for that realistic feel. ;)

    (wonder if one could patch in to an adjustable suspension to provide a bit of motion control? o.O )

  3. @knetcomp It’s not that the data is not being sampled quickly enough, it’s more that OBD2 is deliberately hobbled and not the same CAN bus as is used by the rest of the car. For indication only.

  4. This isn’t a good idea for various reasons.

    1 – Vacuum operated brakes. Once the vacuum is gone, you have a rock hard brake pedal. If you happen to have a vehicle with electrohydraulic brakes, then you will completely deplete your hydraulic accumulator in about 20 brake applications, and once again, rock hard pedal, but with the added inconvenience of a long recharge time.

    2 – Power steering. Obviously, you don’t have it. However, on many vehicles, excessive turning of the wheel will cause air to be pulled back into the steering gear, which will result in power steering system growling for a while after you restart the vehicle.
    Worse yet, on some power steering pump designs (such as those used on many Fords), after you turn the wheel back and forth about 5 times, the steering pump will begin to regurgitate all of your power steering fluid out of the fill cap, because the fluid is being forced out of the steering gear and is replaced by air. A nice, oily mess.

    It’s a nice idea, but probably not a good idea to do this to your car if you plan on driving it in real life as well.

  5. Just a minor nitpick. The audio isn’t the only place where the experience uses a substitute. You forgot to consider the projector.

    That said, this is pretty cool. They should install some air bag shocks (like the ones installed in low riders) and computer control them to simulate grades and turns. With that, wrap around displays, and a stereoscopic system it could be completely immersive.

  6. Sorry.. I call shenanigans. Absolutely no proof on the blog entry or on carlabs site as to how any of it works.

    99.9% of cars don’t have sensor inputs for steering or brake pressure. Wikipedia mentions nothing about the Scirocco having these types of instrumentation.

    How about a little responsible journalism hackaday?

  7. @PsyKotyk your 99.9% is prob true but check this out.


    and then as far as your brake goes, most games just handle the brake as an absolute…so pressure isn’t required. you could run a lead from the brake light to get your controller to brake when you hit the brake. This is where they probably use the OBD-II though. I think they may have disconnected the EFI/ECU fuse if they are really pressing that gas tho.

  8. @PsyKotyk

    FYI, the brake switch has been available on the OBDI/II/CAN bus since the 80’s. As far as steering goes, any vehicle equipped with any sort of stability control system has a steering angle sensor, which communicates via the CAN bus. I haven’t researched this specific vehicle, but I suspect that it probably does have a steering angle sensor.

    -10 year ASE Master Auto Tech/Automotive Engineer/Electrical Engineer :D

  9. PsyKotyk –
    My 2003 saturn vue has electronic steering and all wheel stability control so it has sensors for damn near everything from steering, brakes, gas, etc. Some new vehicles use the brake and gas pedal to interface with an in-dash computer to select “users” and adjust the seat position and mirrors too…

    that $1000 ECU does too much, if you were to argue that it doesnt do much, you’re wrong :)

  10. @PsyKotyk The Scirocco gives the steering angle from ABS controller, which isn’t accessible to standard OBD-II testers, instead you have to know how to issue commands to gateway box in order to access the controller. Brake and gas pedal position come from OBD-II, which is the only connection to the car.

    There was some talks about the steering response above, it is true that there is some delay but it isn’t due to the bus speed – more like the ABS controller being slow to send out data, and in the video there was also a slight software issue present since the incoming data buffer was a bit too large.

    How it works: The PC has a Kvaser UsbCan interface that connects to OBD-II on Scirocco. Our custom software then uses that interface to talk with the car and translates the car’s responses to virtual joystick port created with PPJoy. The computer is a Dell laptop running Windows XP.

  11. I was under the impression that the Scirocco had electronic power steering like the Golf/Rabbit/Gti it is based on, is that not available on the CAN bus?

    I thought there was a way to adjust the power steering level between 3 settings using the VW codes, but I suppose that probably has little bearing on the availability of steering angle sensors.

    I wonder if the SRS system has a steering angle sensor for the “black box” crash recording? Or is that a seperate thing entirely?

    Cool none-the-less, but a mite expensive :)

  12. Yes, OBD *has* been around since the ’80s. Leave it to an anon to Google for the truth. :D

    “1987: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) requires that all new vehicles sold in California starting in manufacturer’s year 1988 (MY1988) have some basic OBD capability. These requirements are generally referred to as “OBD-I”, though this name is not applied until the introduction of OBD-II. The data link connector and its position are not standardized, nor is the data protocol.”

    “1996: The OBD-II specification is made mandatory for all cars sold in the United States.”


  13. For all you guys saying that the car probably doesn’t have the right sensors…. you call yourselves geeks!?

    You should all remember that Stanford chose the Toaureg for their entry in the DARPA grand challenge *because* it was already steer/brake/throttle by wire, so it was easy to interface with. VW does that with all their cars now I think, and even if its only some, without knowing its not unreasonable that the Scirocco might.


  14. @anon

    Hahaha, if you want to get technical, on-board diagnostics have been around since the 70’s on some vehicles, but it’s arguable as to whether they had any “diagnostic advantage”, lol.

    So yeah. In your face.


    The thought of steering & braking by “wire” really freaks me out. Like, a lot. *shudders*

  15. @ Jake

    Steering by wire is a little less scary than you think, most of the time its electric assist, which means that the electronics only *assit* you in turning the wheel, and uses input such as steering wheel position/vehicle speed to determine how much assist to give

    If your car stalls or the electronics fail, you can still steer the car

    Throttle by wire is horrible though, its more of a drivability/emissions control IMO.

  16. @Evan

    yeah, it’s the electrical assist part that scares me. I guess I just envision electrical assist as being less reliable than the everlasting hydraulic-only systems that we have been using since forever. Have you ever seen what happens when a 16 year old “IDK MY BFF JILL??” girl loses power assist? She crashes!


  17. @Jake true but have you ever driven a car without power steering? My 240sx has the power steering removed so it wont draw power off my crank and in an after market motor the powersteering might not be reliable anyway even hydraulic power steering can go out anytime its the computer deciding how much to help me is what scares me, what happens when it decides to help me all turn all the way when i dont need to

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