GPS Tracking My Car – Part One

I’ve been looking at various projects to do with my car. Somehow I landed on making my car both internet enabled and creating an interface to track my car’s location. I will likely add a web interface to some of my other projects to include this location data as well.

Step one, internet. While I wasn’t able to get the unlimited data package, I managed to get a “reasonable” rate for a small amount of data. 1GB/$10. Not great, but considering this will just be sending small amounts of data (hopefully), I shouldn’t hit that limit. I also will try to utilize wifi when possible to avoid inflating my data charges. The device I found is the ZTE Mobley. It plugs right into my ODB-II port for power and takes an AT&T sim card. There are a few settings to change how long it will stay on after the car turns off. My current plan is to have it always on. My car battery does a pretty good job, and I imagine that this is won’t be a huge draw on it, but I will keep and eye on things and make changes as needed.

Step two, brains. My go to device is always a Raspberry Pi. I’m lazy, so I found a kit that has an SD card, two little heatsinks, and even a case (which will get used on by one of my other projects). This particular model comes with built in wifi which makes things super simple. I will use SSH to remotely administer the device. DDClient to dynamically map my ip address to a sub-domain that I host through Google Domains (I may do a separate post on this topic). A USB GPS dongle will provide the location data to whatever service I decide to throw behind it all.

Step three, battery. For those of you who have worked with a Raspberry PI before, you probably know that it is fairly sensitive power wise. It wants nice, clean, stable power. To make sure that I am able to provide this on the go, as well as insure constant power even when starting the car; I’m picking up this little gadget which comes with a rechargeable battery and some power conditioning. This should also help prevent any issues with corrupting the SD card due to power loss.

Step four, power. I have already have fused power connections accessible in the trunk of my car. I thought ahead and have the capability to supply both constant and switched power. To start, I will be using the constant power, but will change to the switched supply if needed. This little gadget will tap into that connection and offer two 2.1 amp 5 volt USB ports. While, I only need one of the ports for this project, I’m sure I will end up using that second one for some other project down the road.

I’ve ordered everything and hopefully it will be here by next weekend so I can start getting this project completed. In the meantime, I will begin writing the software component and getting a database ready to capture all the location data. Stay tuned.

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