Turn Your Actual Car Into a Racing Simulator

Hardcore racing simulator enthusiasts can spend hundreds — even thousands — of dollars on their controller setups. The goal is to replicate the feel of a real car as much as possible. Everything from the steering wheel to the brake pedal should mirror the feel of a car. But there is a very good chance you’ve already got a perfectly good car sitting in your driveway. By following Outlandnish’s guide, you can use your actual car as a controller for racing sims.

To do this, you’ll need a car with an OBDII port (as all modern cars do) and either an Xbox One or a gaming PC. While it’s true that the steering wheel and brake pedal likely won’t feel the same when you’re parked and you won’t have the force feedback that some high-end controllers provide, it’s hard to imagine a more realistic racing sim experience than sitting in an actual car. Theoretically, you can even follow Outlandnish’s write-up for a car that doesn’t even run — the author did so with a Subaru BRZ that had a bad engine.

This entire project relies on the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus that is accessible through a car’s OBDII port. The CAN bus is how the car’s various electronics communicate with each other, and it caries information about virtually every aspect of a modern car’s operation. To intercept and utilize messages from the CAN bus, you’ll need a device like the Macchina M2 Under the Dash kit. This particular kit is designed specifically for turning data from the CAN bus into joystick commands.

In order to take advantage of the Macchina M2’s output, you can use an Xbox Adaptive Controller. That controller is built for accessibility, and is incredibly expandable. In this case, you’re using the Macchina M2 as inputs for the Xbox Adaptive Controller via Outlandnish’s breakout board. You will have to use some sort of CAN software to determine which CAN messages correspond to information like throttle position, but there are lots of online guides on how to accomplish that.

From there, it’s just a matter of figuring how where to put an Xbox and TV inside of you car!

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Author: Cameron Coward

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