Ford’s OpenXC vehicle data bus interface project


At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Ford announced their OpenXC project, a combination of open source hardware and software that lets you extend your vehicle with custom applications and pluggable modules. It uses standard, well-known tools to open up data from the vehicle to developers. The OpenXC team explains, “OpenXC is an API to your car – by installing a small hardware module to read and translate metrics from a car’s internal network, the data becomes accessible from most Android applications using the OpenXC library. You can start making vehicle-aware applications that have better interfaces based on context, can minimize distraction while driving, are integrated with other connected services, and can offer you more insight into your car’s operation.”

The hardware required falls into two categories: the CAN translator and an Android host device. The translator requires about $100 in hardware for the major components including the Digilent chipKIT Max32 and a Network Shield which provides two CAN bus interfaces. The CAN translator interfaces with the vehicles OBD II underdash port and forwards the CAN bus data to the Android host device. OpenXC developers can write applications on this device and use any of the data through a Java library. The Android library and vehicle interface source code repositories are available on GitHub and are open source under the BSD license. (NOTE: while this project bills itself as open source, their definition of this term has its limits: the required CHIPkit firmware for all supported Ford vehicles is currently available to anyone who signs a developer agreement.)

Learn more at the OpenXC getting stated page and see if this project is for you.

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  1. People have been doing this for the past 5-10 years with hardware less than $100. What makes this different? Does Ford make more available to the user as of data? Something more that is currently available from the car through the same network?

  2. If this gives access to the gyroscope and wheel angle/speed info, it would make Android nav software as accurate as what’s built into cars! Very interesting…

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