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I have recently been working on writing software for some very small tracking devices. I decided to take on an electronics engineer and start building some boards myself using a GPS/GPRS module. I ended up making a USB tracking device that streams the users' location back to our servers.

I now want to take this a step further and look at interfacing my electronics project with the car so that I can obtain more information, such as speed, RPM, throttle position etc. I'm currently conducting some basic research and am reading a lot about interfacing with the vehicle's OBD. This seems sensible as there is a lot of data available here and would allow for a simple quick installation.

I used to drive a Peugeot 206 which had an insurance telematics unit to reduce the monthly payments. Fortunately I still have the car and just nipped out to see if this is where the installed unit was taking information from. Initially, to my surprise, I couldn't see anything plugged into the OBD.

I am trying to understand why the telematics box my insurance company installed did not use the OBD. Is it because the OBD is too easy to access and can be tampered with? Or more importantly, is there a better interface within the car dashboard that I could use with my electronics project? I'm asking this question from a commercial perspective so I can understand the best option for building a telematics device and then selling it.

Just to make it clear, I have no interest in touching or tampering with the insurance telematics unit, I would just like to know for the sake of my electronics project the best place in the car to interface with in order for my device to read more data about the car.

  • @Paulster2 That's great, thanks Paul. Is it going to be a problem if we start occupying the OBD port? Take taxis for example. If we want to install our unit into a small fleet of 10 taxis, do you think there are any potential hiccups when it comes to having them installed? Cheers – jskidd3 May 4 '16 at 18:19
  • Ok super. Thanks Paul. Feel free to submit answer and I'll select as best. – jskidd3 May 4 '16 at 18:48
  • If it is not plugged into the OBD port, it is likely just capturing GPS. From the GPS you get location, from 2 locations you get velocity, from 2 velocities you get acceleration. The data can either be compiled on the spot, or sent back as just locations where it can be computed at the server. Might send back only when there is a certain location change, or if a large G force is detected through an accelerometer. – rpmerf May 4 '16 at 20:27
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The OBD-II port is going to be the best place to interface with the vehicle. This is where you'd pull the information you are talking about. Your Telematics unit is probably just tying in directly to the wiring instead of the port to leave it open for smog testing or other maintenance testing.

Is it going to be a problem if we start occupying the OBD port? Take taxis for example. If we want to install our unit into a small fleet of 10 taxis, do you think there are any potential hiccups when it comes to having them installed?

No issues. It would just have to be unplugged before you could use the diagnostic port for troubleshooting the vehicle if a problem arises. The OBD-II ports are used all the time for insurance plug-ins (like from Progressive). I'm quite surprised the Telematics one isn't the same thing.

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