Connecting Your Car to the Internet

Internet of Things? What about the Internet of Cars? It’s actually rather surprising how slow the auto industry is in developing all new vehicles to be connected to the net from the get go. Well if you can’t wait, you can always hack. [John Reimers] shows us how to use an Electric Imp combined with OBD-II to remotely monitor your vehicle.

Using the ever venerable OBD-II port on your vehicle (think USB for cars if you’re not familiar), you can pull all kinds of information off of your vehicle’s engine. Fuel economy, temperatures, load, timing, error codes, etc. There are many devices out there to do this for you, from auxiliary gauges like the ScanGauge II, to bluetooth OBD-II dongles which can send the data to your phone. Or you can build your own.

[John] is using an Electric Imp Amy breakout board to interface between a GPS module, the OBD-II connection, and an accelerometer. It can then combine engine data with a GPS signal to be tracked in real-time online. Unfortunately, that does mean you either need a dedicated WiFi hotspot in your vehicle, or must use your phone.

Putting it all together, you’ll be able to monitor your car in real-time in Google Earth, monitor fuel economy on trips, or spy on a loved one, er track your vehicle from going anywhere suspicious.

This is of course if you’re not afraid of the whole Jeep hack fiasco that happened recently…

33 thoughts on “Connecting Your Car to the Internet

  1. “It’s actually rather surprising how slow the auto industry is in developing all new vehicles to be connected to the net from the get go.”

    Uhh, literally 4 articles down?

    1. memory(Waterjet) >> memory(Goldfish) > memory(HaD editorial “board”)

      Seriously, the defcon talk on hacking a jeep demonstrated how these cars are, even without you knowing, always online over cellular.

        1. They are suggesting that my memory is much better than a goldfish (which actually has better memory than most people think) which is better than the HaD editors. They are poking fun at the editors, for the most part.

          1. > They are poking fun at the editors, for the most part.

            So true. I do hope they have loads of humour. :) Ladies&Guys of HaD, you’re great people!

            But still, I’d like to encourage them to more carefully assess their style and writing. At school, we had a magazine, with an editorial board of effectively two 16 year olds, and all we did was read articles and scribble onto them once, handing them back and then unchecked publishing the version the author handed in after that. This doesn’t happen on HaD, and I think it’s time the growing (and also, we have to be aware of that, commercially involved) HaD family sets up some Quality Assurance practice. We have criticized “buzzfeedy” articles, we have argued about the innovation in presented “hacks”, we have discussed whether contraptions were hacks or just “what a skilled person would do”, and so far, it did not seem like HaD had to much of a consideration for quality; I really don’t mind so far, I like the mixed niveau, but I think at this point, HaD is at risk being quickly obsoleted by someone who does spend that time, and proofreads the articles twice — HaD clearly has a community advantage, but that could be a fleeting one.

    2. Excellent point. In the last week my wife email account was accessed by someone in Sidney (of all places!), and a friend is still recovering from an identity theft crisis. And we still “want” internet connected cars, and digital wallets. And can you imagine what “antivirus” software will cost though the dealership? Or when they decide to stop supporting it?

  2. Some insurance companies and fleet management companies did something exactly like this and the result was vulnerability. Some things just should not be internet connected and I certainly would not trust any code I wrote with my family’s life.

      1. No, that’s by definition what all modern cars are. A normal ECU can kill you perfectly fine. And even without that, you’re still trusting your family’s life to someone else’s design, so how exactly is that any different?

        1. That ECU has to conform to quite a few standards and the design was likely rigorously tested…
          While it’s not something like certified aircraft parts, it still is very likely to be much safer then a DIY solution…

  3. I say, thank f__k it’s going slow. Personally I don’t want the internet anywhere NEAR my car and its electronics. Anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to add such connectivity to cars is a damn moron. Unless it’s a completely water tight (will never happen, ever), separate (wont happen, cause then they can’t add all the “cool” functionality and it’ll take extra work), system that only deals with, I dunno, the radio (in which case, what’s the point?) then it shouldn’t be in a car.

    Everything doesn’t HAVE to be connected ffs.

    1. See the “hacked jeep” article and video linked from there. It’s happening. If you bought a new middle or upper class car the last 24 month, chances are it’s connected to the internet *right now* without you knowing.

      There’s nothing “going slow” about this right now. Seriously. It has “gone slow” for the last decade, where the technical possibilities for always-on connectivity were there, but noone made use of it. Now the future *is there*, car suppliers (don’t act as if car manufacturers did more than build their cars — typically, all electronics are bought in from suppliers, including design&testing services) is prepared for the harsh internet reality. You’re too late. Keep your old car, don’t get on a taxi or ride a bus, always wear a tinfoil helmet and keep away from them dangerous lizard overlords.

    2. Internet in a car has its uses, updates for GPS maps, internet radio, traffic alerts…

      The problem is car companies are adding in all this tech to the car itself with minimal security.

      There is no reason most peoples phone cannot do all these tasks separate from the car itself…
      What is needed is a standard for linking the phone to the car, so that GPS can be displayed and controlled using built in controls /display rather than the phone itself…

      1. “Internet in a car has its uses, updates for GPS maps, internet radio, traffic alerts…”

        Let’s be clear. None of those use cases involve having the *car* being connected to the Internet. None of them. They involve having a GPS unit have access to the Internet. They involve having an internet radio device connected to the internet. And they involve having a traffic alert device connected to the internet.

        You could replicate all of those by having 1 or more separate processors, which outputs nothing more than image data to the head unit, and receives nothing more than button presses. Then the head unit overlays the image if the user has selected any of those things. No software security necessary, because you have literally no code injection possibilities.

        “The problem is car companies are adding in all this tech to the car itself with minimal security.”

        No, the problem is that car companies are *cheap*, and they want to add this stuff and charge a lot for the feature, while actually spending no money on it whatsoever.

        In the Jeep case, if you look at it, the problem was that the head unit had access to the Internet, and it had access to the CAN bus. That’s game over, immediately. Thinking that you can isolate the system with software is just stupid.

    1. Lol, and what are your estimates on how good that will work as soon as let’s say 5% of the cars are part of that? There’s a reason cell phones are technically a tad more complicated than amateur radio rigs… this is astonishingly naive.

    1. fitting nick. Have you read the article / see the video on hacking the Jeep? It’s not like Jeep is the only brand that delivers their cars with built-in connectivity, even if the customer doesn’t know. Dude, the future is here, it’s scary, and if you bought a middle or upper class car in the last 24 month, you’re vulnerable.

  4. I don’t get what’s so great about this? You need to have a WiFi hotspot (your phone) for this rig, so why not eliminate the Imp since your phone already has GPS, heck Torque can record your coords and all your cars vitals at set intervals.

    I just see this as complicating things when this already exists with far less hardware and more features.

  5. In the wake of the Jeep hacking fiasco, my opinion that computers have no business being in cars has been reinforced. And don’t get me started on self driving cars, remember that scene in “I Robot” where Detective Spooner is trapped in the car and nearly killed because someone hacked it?

    Now if you make a car with a computer that is truly independent (no outside connection), then you’ve greatly reduced the risk, but not totally. A human being programmed that computer. Remember the recall on the Toyota Prius because of a bug computer controlled the brakes? Then there is the infamous keyless entry system. I lost count of the times I watched (and laughed at) someone who hit every button on the remote and the car is still locked! Bells and whistles are just more stuff that costs a fortune to fix later.

    Back in the days of mechanical and non-computerized systems, car owners could maintain them themselves. Nowadays, that control is ripped away and people are forced to trust that some code monkey did their job right.

  6. “It’s actually rather surprising how slow the auto industry is in developing all new vehicles to be connected to the net from the get go”
    Actually it is the reverse – it is horrifying how fast the industry, and the government, are moving to connect all new vehicles.

    http://www.safercar.gov/v2v/index.html

    If V2V and V2I were optional “features” it wouldn’t be too bad. Rather than mandating V2V and V2I the government should mandate that any such systems be optional. (Just like central locking and keyless systems – they would be okay if they were optional, for those who want to take the extra risk and expense,
    but it is really nasty that in many cases one doesn’t have any choice with new cars.)

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