Automating Your Car With A Spare Fob And An ESP8266

Despite the name, home automation doesn’t have to be limited to only the devices within your home. Bringing your car into the mix can open up some very interesting possibilities, such as automatically getting it warmed up in the morning if the outside air temperature drops below a certain point. The only problem is, not everyone is willing to start hacking their ride’s wiring to do it.

Which is exactly why [Matt Frost] went the non-invasive route. By wiring up an ESP8266 to a cheap aftermarket key fob for his Chevrolet Suburban, he’s now able to wirelessly control the door locks and start the engine without having to make any modifications to the vehicle. He was lucky that the Chevy allowed him to program his own fob, but even if you have to spend the money on getting a new remote from the dealer, it’s sure to be cheaper than the repair bill should you cook something under the dash with an errant splice or a misplaced line of code.

The hardware for this project is about as simple as it gets. The fob is powered by the 3.3 V pin on the Wemos D1 Mini, and the traces for the buttons have been hooked up to the GPIO pins. By putting both boards into a custom 3D printed enclosure, [Matt] came up with a tidy little box that he could mount in his garage and run off of a standard USB power supply.

On the software side of things [Matt] has the device emulating a smart light so it can easily be controlled by his Alexa, with a few helpful routines sprinkled in that allow him to avoid the awkward phraseology that would be required otherwise. There’s also a minimal web server running on the microcontroller that lets him trigger various actions just by hitting the appropriate URLs, which made connecting it to Home Assistant a snap. One downside of this approach is that there’s no acknowledgement from the vehicle that the command was actually received, but you can always send a command multiple times to be sure.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an ESP8266 used to “push” buttons on a remote. If you’ve got a spare fob for your device, or can get one, it’s an excellent way to automate it on the cheap.

Okay, Google. Start The Jeep!

When [wizardpc] bought his Jeep, it came with an Avital 3100L car alarm system; but after it started going on the fritz, he needed to replace it. So he opted for a new alarm system with the same harness type — and then he decided to hack it.

When installing the new alarm system, an Avital 5103L combo unit, he realized there was an extra wire that when grounded, starts the vehicle — Avital had included the hardware upgrade before the software came out on this specific model. Score.

From there it was a pretty easy hack. All he needed was a Raspberry Pi 2, a relay board, and a few dirt simple lines of code. On the mobile end of things is a collection of hacks; he’s using Tasker with his Android phone to add a special command to Google Now. He tells Google to ‘Start the Jeep’ and after a few seconds, she turns right on.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Google would expose some hooks so that we can all add our own functionality to Google Now without doing the app-juggling  [wizardpc] used for this? If you have your own set of Google Now hacks we’d love to hear about it. Send us a tip!

Continue reading “Okay, Google. Start The Jeep!”

SMS Remote Start Gives New Life To Your Old Smartphone

iphone-sms-remote-start

Hack a Day alum [Will O’Brien] recently upgraded his phone, and was trying to find a use for his old one. He always wanted a remote starter for his Subaru Outback, but wasn’t interested in paying for an off the shelf kit. Since he had this old smartphone kicking around, he thought that it would be the perfect starting point for an SMS-triggered remote start system.

He started off by jailbreaking his phone, which allows him to run some Perl scripts that are used to listen for incoming texts. Using a PodBreakout mini from Sparkfun he connected the phone to an Arduino, which is responsible for triggering the car’s ignition. Now, a simple text message containing the start command and a password can start his car from a anywhere in the world.

While [Will] is quite happy with his setup he already has improvements in mind, including a way for the Arduino to send a message back to him via SMS confirming that the car has been successfully started. He’s thinking about putting together a kit for others looking to add the same functionality to their own car, so be sure to check his site periodically for project updates.

Manual Transmission Gear sensor

[Ben] bought a remote starter for his car but needed a way to make sure the manual transmission was in neutral when starting. He built this infrared sensor frame to detect the position of the stick. It uses four beam paths which will tell him the exact gear or neutral position of the shifter. For this project he just needs to detect neutral but exact gearing is apparently necessary information for his next hacking project. We initially were worried about sunlight interfering with the sensor readings but he’s building this to go under the collar that is used to cover up the mechanical joint at the base of the stick.