Arduino RFID Car Starter

[Pierre] recently bought his first car and decided to make his own RFID electric starter for it!

An Arduino Nano controls two relays which in turn can turn the car on, start it, and turn it off. Instead of adding a button for “push to start” he opted for a 13.56MHz RFID module. Now when he passes his RFID badge across the dash, the car turns on — if it’s held there for over a second, the car starts. Another pass and it will turn off.

His eventual goal is to relocate this circuit closer to the wheel and use an NFC ring to start it! He’s done an amazing job hiding all the components under the trim in his car so far, you can’t tell anything is amiss!  Check out the demonstration in the video after the break.

While his goal to use an NFC ring is admirable, one of our readers took it a step further a few years ago, and starts his car with a RFID tag implanted in his hand! Personally, we prefer [Pierre’s] approach.

29 thoughts on “Arduino RFID Car Starter

  1. I can see the guy who implanted the RFID in his hand getting it cut off in an accident, then trying to wave the hand to restart the car…. Kind of like what happened (arm cut off) to the Thunder Ghod. “No officer, I need to find that hand to move the car.”

    1. If the car is an automatic, any remote start is safe (engine won’t start with tranny out of P or N) And since it’s not a remote start there is no need for this anyway. Didn’t take long for the “ermagerd safety” unwashed crowd to come crapping on the floor… Hint, in japan maybe 90% of the cars have keyless operation. You keep the transceiver key in your pocket for opening doors or starting the engine.

  2. I still say all cars should have a big red button marked “STOP” that physically cuts the power to the engine management system, fuel pump and disconnects the battery.
    As brakes are generally powered from a separate system this should still allow the car to be stopped but prevent a runaway situation.

    1. Actually, killing the engine will make the car more difficult to control because you will lose power steering and the vacuum running the brake booster. That won’t stop a runaway diesel that’s burning its lubrication oil, either. (You stop them by choking their air supply.)

    2. Besides what anon said, disconnecting the battery is rather pointless because if the engine is running it will be powered by the alternator. Disregarding that shutting off the power to the computers would also disable ABS brakes, airbags, etc.

        1. Incorrect yes it will. airbags in modern cars are controlled by sensors. These sensors run from powers coming from the battery. Even older style sensors which used the ball bearing sensors still relyed on electrical current. Modern sensors sense gforce, rate of deceleration and combined with secondary sensors that sense impact. It’s takes all these sensors to deploy the airbags.

          1. They also have a backup capacitor in case the battery becomes disconnected in a crash. There’s a reason the repair manuals tell you to wait x amount of minutes before fiddling with the air bag system after removing the fuse or disconnecting the battery.

  3. I don’t understand why you say this is not safe, maybe the description is not full.
    so you have two relays : a permanent relay that switch your light on (so there is a problem with the circuit, the car doesn’t stop) and a temporary relay (you can see it in the picture, it just makes a contact for start the starter.

    of course with two temporary relays that is unsafe. ( i do that in the first version)

    now i want to unlock the door so you have a full nfc controled car. =)

    1. Some cars don’t have a steering interlock, particularly ones that have the ignition switch somewhere other than the steering column. My old Grand Am didn’t, and many pre-2010 GM SUVs don’t.

    2. i have a steering interlock in my car but i use a copy of the key transponder (125khz) fixed near of the neiman for start.
      i think you also can emulate the security code to the board computer but i don’t try.

  4. it has been done, in fact i use only one Atmel AVR, the rfid detector and one relay. No need to waste a good freaking arduino or some extra boards. It probably cost me way lees than what this dude spend on it. The AVR by an experience programmer can do by it self what the arduino does.

  5. Reinvented the wheel a bit here. I hope the RFID is just a proof of concept though because obviously it’s an extra step(or 2) in starting the car – but it wouldn’t take much to turn this into remote start.

    Pierre: Your code was in french but as far as I can see, you are using a predefined length of time to crank the starter. You should consider tapping into the tachometer signal to detect when the engine actually turns over – this will prevent grinding the starter once the engine is running, but be sure to implement a timeout to prevent burning up the starter in case of a no start condition.

    Also keep in mind you’ve now made your car about 100x easier to steal.

    1. Skitchin: First I connected an analog input of the Arduino to the cigar lighter socket (with a voltage divider bridge) but the time left the ignition starter too long on.
      I thought of a similar system to detect when the engine is running or not, but keep the ability to be able to leave the use the starter as long as the button is nearby (like when you turn the key).
      I like the idea of tachometer but find where plug into the car make this project more difficult to achieve… or maybe you now where plug?

      I agree to the ease to steal the car, I try to duplicate the code sent by the key transponder to emulate it with arduino.

      (sorry for my english, I try to make the most comprensible sentences possible, but it is not always obvious)

      1. Pierre:

        Your English is far better than my French! Haha

        Not sure to be honest – I know American cars from the 90’s used a pulsed signal of 4 pulses per revolution. But with your car being new(and French) the signal may be digital. In any event, there should be a wire in the interior near the steering column, as well as the wire going to/from the PCM. Either way you should try to locate wiring diagrams for your vehicle.

        Alternatively, there seems to be something called a “Tach Signal Generator” that watches the Alternator and outputs a tachometer signal – I can’t really comment on these however as I just found them on Google.

        I suggest researching some remote starter kits and the installation procedure, as this is essentially what you are designing – with the exception that yours is triggered by RFID rather than a remote button push.

  6. nice build. reminds me of my implementation. There are several, solvable problems:
    1.) you can turn of the engine (thus loose breaking) at highway speeds. perhaps implementing reading OBDII and CANBUS data. (that what i am working right now, sparkfun has a nice little shield)
    2.) Anti theft – lets hope your thief does not have a clue about electronics ;) otherwise this baby can be started without authorization in seconds.

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