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A car-tracking dongle could make self-driving systems better

A car-tracking dongle could make self-driving systems better
From Engadget - July 7, 2017

"It's amazing how little information there is about the plethora of sensors in your car. Information should be free," Hotz said.

The data that is collected is usually shared with the driver and typically includes, speed, location (if the car has GPS), fault codes and a few other bits, like how much fuel is in the tank. The Panda takes it further. According to Hotz, it surfaces information that up until now, was only accessible to the manufacturer.

It supports 3 CAN (Controller Area Network, the main vehicle interface standard), 2 LIN (Local Interconnect Network) and 1 GMLAN (General Motor Local Area Network) for access to almost all of the sensors in most of the cars on the road. The dongle ships with WIFi and a USB port to interface with your computer and charge your smartphone. The result is a barrage of data. To help parse all that information Comma AI also launched Cabana a CAN analysis tool.

Cabana takes all the information from the Panda and video collected by Comma AI's Chffr app and syncs it. Drivers can watch a video of their drive in Cabana and see how and which sensors are reacting. The only issue is that the company does not actually know what each sensor in every car does. It's counting on header files within vehicles to help figure some of that stuff out. But for anything else, it's looking to the community to help fill those gaps.

In fact the entire scheme is open source with a GitHub repo for sharing the DBC files (the auto industry's standard file format) generated by the community's findings. Comma AI says the goal of the open dbc project "is to build a repository with a DBC file for every car ever manufactured and democratize access to the decoder ring for your car."

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