On a list of things you’d want to hack into and mess around with, your car might not be very high up.
In fact, the words “hack” and “car” may seem downright dangerous to include in a sentence together. Comma Ai wants to change your mind.
panda is the “nicest universal car interface ever,” according to a post written by the developers themselves. Priced at $88 (USD), it might just be the cheapest interface ever as well, and they want you to use the software to truly explore your car.
George Hotz is the man behind Comma.ai, a self-driving car startup that could rival the likes of Tesla. He designed it after his original self-driving car kit (The Comma One) was cancelled last year due to pressure from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration trying to force him and the project in regulatory compliance. panda is not as intrusive, as it simply plugs into any car’s onboard OBDII, as long as the car was made after 1996.
The software for panda is 100% open source and can be found on GitHub, with a community building up around the use and integration of the device. It is designed to be used in conjunction with chffr, a cloud-based dashcam app also made by Comma Ai. With both chffr and panda working together, you will be able to review your drive along with a host of other details, from knowing how much gas you had to seeing how hard you hit the brakes.
chffr is then paired with cabana, a Controller Area Network (CAN) tool. It helps you make logical sense of all the data your car spits out and interprets it into figures that are much more understandable.
Admittedly, panda is not for the normal 9-5 rush hour driver. Hackers and car enthusiasts will get the most out of it due to its niche-factor.
In the future, panda could be a useful tool to possibly weigh and measure the environmental impact of cars at a precise level due to the device’s ability to accurately measure miles per gallon, gas being used and locations travelled. Combine this with the ability to force more ingenuity and accountability from its main competitor Tesla and panda is cruising right along.