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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As some of you may know I live in the UK driving a 2012 (MY2013 I believe) Chevy volt (AKA Vauxhall Ampera). Onstar did not exist in the UK back in 2012 so my vehicle does not have the facility installed.

I recently came across an app for my phone that claimed it could at least bring the convenience features, namely

Door Lock/ Unlock
Boot/Trunk Unlock
Drivers Door Unlock

Sound Alarm
Turn on/off cabin HVAC as per button on the remote.


Long story short it works really well, and although I was fortunate in that I already had everything I needed to test the app in my house, if I did not I would have had to spend about £90 (Roughly $120) to do it.

How it works

You press a button in the app GUI, a text message is relayed to an old smartphone that lives in your car, which in turn (Via WiFi or bluetooth) relays a message to an OBD dongle in the car, car carries out command.




What you need to make this work.



1) Specifically an OBDLink MX adapter, it has to be this adapter as it's the only one that can communicate on the GM SW-Lan (I have the Wifi model which I regret purchasing, it turns out it was created for iPhone/IOS users as the iPhone can't be made to work with the bluetooth version. There is no benefit to the WiFi version over the bluetooth version, but there are some drawbacks)

Around £70

2) An old android phone (that will need to live in the car) It needs to be running at least Android 4 but even then there might be issues, I recommend Android 4.4 Kitkat and above. Personally I used an 8 year old HTC Desire (Bravo) which has been in a cupboard for several years waiting for a purpose. HTC's Last update for this phone was Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It was quite a mission/herculean task to force it up to version 4.4. (Thanks XDA Developers)

This phone can be picked up for about £10 (I recommend about £30 for a used phone that is ready to run, cracked screens not a problem for this)

3) The GMRC app found in the google play store is to be installed on the old Android phone. It's a partially free app. Lock and unlock doors is completely free, all the other buttons require you to purchase them individually, but work after a 10 second delay anyway if you use the "Test button" feature. Weirdly a glitch in the app means there is no 10 second delay on any of the buttons when it receives a command via SMS text message. The only feature I ended up paying for was the ability to edit commands and buttons. For example open the charge port is not currently available but in theory I should be able to configure it as E.g long press on the open boot/trunk button.

Also it would be nice to be able to close all windows remotely, although I don't think this is possible with the OBDLink MX

£8.99


4) Your phone for sending commands. The commands are actually sent as SMS text messages, if your personal phone is Android you can install a second copy of the GMRC app on your personal phone and configure it as a remote control installation, this means you get a nice GUI for remote controlling your car from anywhere. In reality when you press a button it sends a text message to the old android phone running GMRC which then carries out the relevant command.

If you have an iPhone I believe there are apps that will allow you to send predetermined SMS text messages from a programmable GUI/Button interface to achieve the same outcome.

If you have a dumb phone then I guess you just have to type the commands into your text screen and press send, for example *001# is lock all doors.


I'm pleased with the set-up. I have manged to lock my keys in the boot twice costing me a taxi fare home for the spare, hopefully never again.

And now the weather is turning I have already started using the cabin HVAC to pre-heat the car, for example from my desk at work well in advance of me setting off on my commute home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Nice work

OVMS should be better, though
I checked into OVMS, You're right, it should be better, but after 5 years of development it isn't. To be fair, I'm being a little harsh. When it's complete it will be awesome. But right now it costs a good chunk more than my solution by the time you have purchased the required accessories, and is no where near as functional no lock unlock, no preheat etc which are the sole reasons I have GMRC.

I purchased the OBDlink to do diagnostics and virtual dashboard through the torque app, which works very well. This added functionality through GMRC is just the cherry on top.


OVMS doesn't seem to really be focusing on our car, it seems more aimed at Tesla, with some volt side functionality. It has been that way since not long after its creation and not moved much since.
 

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So just curious, how are you keeping the "client" phone in the car charged?
I have a "donor phone" that would work, but the battery is pretty much shot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I while back I setup a permanent live feed for my Dash cam so it records 24/7. That feed terminates in a cigarette lighter socket that I purchased from eBay. My Dash cam came with a cigarette lighter to 2xUSB adapter. I am using the spare USB to keep the old phone going.


I took power from the safe side of the fuse for the horn, it's permanent live and seldom used.
 

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Thanks for sharing. I'm looking at ways to interface with the car without monthly fees. However if I understand right you have to have a cell phone that has texting capabilities in the car. That would have a monthly subscription. Cool solution but I'm thinking if I could get a similar setup that just worked with wifi instead. I could talk to the car while it is in my garage..... Might have to get the OBDLink MX adapter and perhaps write an app to send it command directly from the Android? Humm....
 

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^ The monthly cell phone fee is an issue in the US. Mobile fee structures in UK may be different and work better for this. In the US there are some prepaid phone plan options that might work. For example, I think Lycamobile has a prepaid plan that would work well, but is not advertised and kind of hard to find. I think it would allow you to put $10 on the plan and use it like this for years and years as long as you manage it correctly.
 

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This is a slick set up. My only concern is leaving the OBDII device plugged in and powered on continuously running the wireless link to the phone. I realize the Volt's 12V battery can sustain that for a while, and the battery will be maintained while the EVSE is connected (most model years), but at what point do you risk having a low voltage problem when parked unplugged?

The phone charging is a similar concern, but that can easily be set up to charge only when the car is turned on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Just to address some of the concerns.
1) Mobile phone plan. As mentioned in the UK we have a very handy system called pay as you go. If I pick up a free SIM, and put £5 or £10 on it, it will last indefinitely (receiving texts) so long as it's used once every 3 months for a paid service like phone/data or text. A text costs 10p so in theory (if timed correctly) I could get up to 300 months (25 years) from £10. Sending a text from the client phone is as simple as pressing the locate button in the app on my main phone. This causes the client phone to send me back a text message with its current GPS location.

2) With regards to power consumption we are talking milliamps I have had no issues yet leaving it on 24/ 7

What about a freedom pop SIM for you guys, that has no monthly.
 

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Just to address some of the concerns.
1) Mobile phone plan. As mentioned in the UK we have a very handy system called pay as you go. If I pick up a free SIM, and put £5 or £10 on it, it will last indefinitely (receiving texts) so long as it's used once every 3 for a paid service like phone/data or text. A text costs 10p so in theory (if timed correctly) I could get up to 300 months (25 years) from £10. Sending a text from the client phone is as simple as pressing the locate button in the app on my main phone. This causes the client phone to send me back a text message with its current GPS location.
Just to point out something that may be unfamiliar to US members, in the UK, I believe a phone is not charged for incoming text messages, so most of the app usage would be free for the phone in the car.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Just to point out something that may be unfamiliar to US members, in the UK, I believe a phone is not charged for incoming text messages, so most of the app usage would be free for the phone in the car.
Good point, that is true. We don't pay for incoming texts, we just need to send 1 text every 3 months to keep the line active.
 

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I will add a bit about my experience with this solution. I have only used the GMRC app while up skiing, but have been very pleased so far. I purchased a texting only plan through US Mobile, which is around $4.5/month for 40 texts. Overpriced to be sure, but its better than OnStar and the cheapest option I could find. Freedom Pop does not work with CDMA phones, which mine is. My secondary phone is always plugged in but only charges when the car is on. I only turn the phone on when up at the ski pass, so I haven't had any issues with the battery dying on me. One concern I have is that the GMRC app only seems to work when the screen stays on. I am hoping to find a way to use MacroDroid to put the phone in battery saving mode with the screen off until it receives a text, but this might require me to send two texts to precondition, which would not be ideal with a 40 text per month plan. I will keep experimenting and provide an update when I have things working to my liking.
 

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Hi,
very interesting, as living outside of US, We do not have Onstar here. I got OBDMX -BT version, I will try tomorrow with those apps. we have no limits in Georgia/Tbilisi with text messages. I need to get another Android phone only.
I also remember there was an app, not from scanntools obdMx - OBDlink, it was on youtube. i will try to search this also.

have you tried to modify/reprogram/change how WiFi does work in car or maybe there is an option to put another sim card in car?
mine is 15 volt, 1 GEN, with 4.5LTE and WiFi.
 
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