Speedometer

OSHGroup 023: A Move in the Open Source Hardware Direction – Ford Motor Company Drives OpenXC

Speedometer

What if you had access to the thoughts of your car?  The speed, GPS data, steering wheel angle, fuel consumption, engine conditions, etc. – you could probably make some awesome stuff from the use of this data.  Things that were useful – think heads-up displays, tricked out speedometers or a functioning flux capacitor.

Some forward thinking scientists and engineers at Ford Motor Company think there should be a way to make available this information for people like you  -  so you can do with it what you want (mostly*).

The endeavor is called OpenXC.

And its not just about the information – it’s more about the standardization of the output of the information, how it can be read from vehicle to vehicle, across models and even possibly across manufacturers.

It’s not that people haven’t been tinkering with cars – noble folks have been hacking the auto for literally centuries — you name it, and it has likely been done or tried before.

These are great endeavors, but in many cases are one-off designs – the next person that wants to make a similar mod on a different model or brand of auto is left recreating the entire build from scratch.  Not to mention, the cost involved might include adding sensors that already exist in the car in the first place, creating higher barriers to entry for the next designer.

The modern car further complicates matters –  comparing what’s below the hood of a 1950-60s muscle car to a modern sedan is hardly fair.  Where does one get started these days?

What if you could ‘open-source’ hardware that simply plugged into your car and read the parameters you designed it to ask for?  What if you could take the same open-sourced hardware and plug it into your friend’s car? Or the rental car you drove around Brussels during FOSDEM?

The modularity, the life-time and the cost of your hardware would all benefit.

I welcome you to listen to this interesting talk with Chris Peplin and Dave Evans about the inner workings, aspirations and motivations of OpenXC.

*Here is where we have a heart-to-heart with the open source hardware purist in us all.  OpenXC would miss the stamp of Open Source Hardware/Software approval based on an agreement that is required to be signed in order to have access to the firmware that translates information across the controller area network bus to a standard easily readable output.

Here is my take.  I think OpenXC is a move in the right direction.  It liberates information for use, while retaining IP for Ford.  There is nothing to say that what starts as closed won’t be opened up by Ford as it sees the benefits of community involvement in design.

I commend a company that seeks to try something new and Open Source Hardware is new to car manufactures. Having spoken with Chris and Dave, I can tell the endeavor is sincere and based on a passion for openness.  What is your take?