Open Source Transit Tracker

Open Source Transit Tracker | MicroController- | Datalogging- | | | Update- 12/4/12 | Other DIY Vehicle Tracking Projects- ==Transitter with Touchscreen On.038.pngCross Section GPS Transmitter.038.png
TRAlog Shield


Prototype for low-cost device for small transit agencies to track and transmit public transit vehicle coordinates to an open source server in an accessible format.

Hardware Specifications-

Potential Applications-

  • Small Rural Public Transit Providers
  • College Campuses
  • School Districts
  • Carpools
  • Vanpools


Metro transit agencies are rapidly discovering the advantages of equipping their vehicle fleets with Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems. Passengers can access the location and arrival times via smartphone, SMS/Text message, PC, or fixed information display screens. The resulting convenience has led to an increase in ridership. Additional benefits include
Microtracker GSM Schematic.023.png
, fleet management and dispatch which can be of crucial importance to rural providers of "Demand-Response" service.
While many agencies provide their data feeds through an open source format, the transmitter hardware itself is still proprietary and very costly. Rural transit passengers and providers stand to benefit greatly from such technology, but thus far the steep price, and lack of trained staff have prevented adoption.
The explosive growth of the open source "Arduino" microcontroller platform has finally enabled devices with location-tracking and wireless transmission capabilities to be constructed out of readily available electronic components at very low cost.


Location Data

Global Position Satellite Module attached as a separate "Shield" or together with transmitter.
GPS Modules-



General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) using the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard set.

GPRS/GSM Module-


Wireless Carrier

Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card from GSM carrier (incompatible with CDMA carriers including Verizon and Sprint)


Datalogging capability can be incorporated through the use of Secure Digital (SD) cards with variable storage capacity
  • Use Standard SD Card with Adafruit GPS Datalogger Shield
  • Use Micro µSD Card with TRAlog Shield


The modules outlined above are attached to individual "shields" which can be attached to the Microcontroller. The shields can be used in two different configurations.

Microtracker v1.0

MicroTracker v2.0


"ITS technologies cannot be easily transported into a frontier rural community where the infrastructure did not exist. When a contractor assures a small community that a project is of lesser scale than the successful larger cities and the baseline technologies are not so different it is highly recommended that they prove it in the field."-Evolution of Intelligent Transportation Systems for Mobility Management and Coordination Serving California's Rural Frontier. Federal Transit Administration January 2012 FTA Report 0006
Reliance on the GSM standard potentially limits the effectiveness of this device especially in rural areas with low wireless reception. In northern Maine especially, AT&T,T-Mobile and other GSM towers are more difficult to come by. However, just as with open source software, the advantage to open source hardware is the flexibility of its platform. Therefore if new networking options become available before sufficient remote regions have sufficient GSM coverage, the basic components and architecture can be modified to incorporate the new format. (See Mesh Network for Rural Transit for proposed solution).

Links and Similar Projects-

Update- 12/4/12

TRAlog Development-

The Manufacturers of the TRAlog GPS-GPRS-GSM Shield have released a sample Vehicle Tracking Sketch-

The sketch is in an early stage of development but it is a major leap forward. HumbleHackers and CarFree Maine will be working on a clone of the sketch via our Github page. Progress will be posted on this page as it appears.

Location Data through

The sketch utilizes an online webhost for "Internet of Things" projects called (formerly Check out the CarFree Maine COSM Page
The Sample Vehicle Tracker Sketch Demo Feed can be seen live at-
When a feed is posted onto the data is accessible as a graph, but various apps can be added for additional functionality.
A COSM App called Trails will generate a real-time map out of a geolocation feed submitted with Lat./Long. values.
For example one of the datafeeds on COSM tracks a Ship called the OOCL NOVGOROD ( The standard graph visualization gives you only the raw data values. But using the TRAILS apps it will display the following-
Location Tracking Demo using COSM Trails App-

Transit Tracking-Status of Development

As of yet there is no public forum for the development of the TRAlog Shield. CarFree Maine has been in direct contact with the Manufacturer about various connection issues with the GPRS Transmitter powering app using the Arduino Serial Console.
Action Items-
  1. Create a Github Clone and track development specific to transit applications
  2. Contact Manufacturer to set up a public discussion forum or create one
  3. Test on Uno, Leonardo, Mega ADK and new Arduino Due (32 Bit).
  4. Experiment with exporting data feed from COSM directly to OpenStreetMap

Other DIY Vehicle Tracking Projects-

Raspberry Pi

Unlike Microprocessors like the Arduinos (which are intended for use as sensors or controllers but not full computing platforms), the Raspberry Pi can run a full Linux-Debian OS on a board the size of a credit-card (see for one possible usage). Some commentators have erroneously speculated as to whether or not the RPi would replace the Arduino. Such speculation is only made by the misinformed however, as the two platforms perform very different functions. The RPi has far more processing power and will be perfect for applications that require constant connection to a webserver or network database without using too much power. It is not nearly as ideal for reading analog inputs or displaying real-time values as it has no built-in analog inputs. One optimal configuration would be to use the RPi as an XBee base station to interpret wireless sensor data coming from Arduino boards.
In geolocations applications however, the RPi may have some interesting uses as a field device. Arduino developers have found it difficult to perform the processing functions involved in GPS tracking, 3G Wireless Transmission and dataogging within the limited 8bit processor used by most Arduino boards (though they have released a 32-Bit version called the Arduino DUE which CarFree Maine will be testing over the coming weeks). Several projects are underway where developers are using a Raspberry Pi for real-time vehicle tracking. Most projects are meant for private automobile usage, but the functionality is universal.

Raspberry Pi Tracking Links-

From website-
  • 1 box containing the Pi and parts to perform the following tasks.Boot the Pi when the vehicle starts
  • Log the vehicle location from a GPS source
  • Log vehicle diagnostics read from an OBD II device
  • Log nearby WiFi networks during travel (if it’s good enough for google…)
  • Capture accelerometer data from an Nintendo Wii Nunchuk (I2C comms)
  • Use the Nunchuk joystick and buttons as a control interface
  • Display control interface and some data on a small LCD screen (HD44870)
  • Send/receive data and commands via GPRS
  • Detect when home WiFi is present and upload logs to server, then power down

Car Tracking/Trip Logger (from Raspberry Pi Forum)

Direct Quote From Forum ( I've had the idea for a long time to have a system in my car capable of recording every journey make and uploading it to some remote storage for my any time access. As well as have any time 'findme' functions of a car security device. Finally I thought of using the raspberry pi to do this If anyone is interested, some of the code I have so far is down below. I also plan to implement OBDII logging and wardriving functions in as well. Some questions.
  • The Pi will need a 3G dongle, GPS receiver, wifi receiver and obdII connection.
  • It should be powered on at all time, as well as haveing a gps fix and data connection all the time.
  • It should know whether the ignition is on or off
  • The wifi and obd need only be active when ignition is on.
I have:
  • A USB GPS receiver,
  • compact 4 port unpowered USB hub.
  • A number (3ish?) of car phone/GPS chargers (12v cig -> 5vUSB, non specified amperage but designed only as chargers)


Wifi Router Reflashed with OpenWRT

OpenWRT is described as "a Linux distribution for embedded devices." It is similar to popular Linux distributions like DD-WRT and TomatoUSB which hackers use to turn an old wifi router into a fully featured Linux platform by replacing the stock manufacturer firmware with the distribution. OpenWRT goes one step further however. The heading on the website points out that-

Instead of trying to create a single, static firmware, OpenWrt provides a fully writable filesystem with package management. This frees you from the application selection and configuration provided by the vendor and allows you to customize the device through the use of packages to suit any application. For developer, OpenWrt is the framework to build an application without having to build a complete firmware around it; for users this means the ability for full customization, to use the device in ways never envisioned.
Because the flexibility of OpenWRT enables hackers to use it on a wide variety of devices, many hackers recommend combining OpenWRT with cheap wifi routers like the TP-Link WR703n as a cheaper alternative to the already inexpensive Raspberry Pi.
Many "travel routers" like the one pictured above are capable of working with a cellular signal if combined with a 3G receiver via USB. Configuring such a setup to work with GPS as well is possible through any number of ways. An experiment is currently underway to test OpenWRT and GPS capabilities for use as a datalogger (without real-time data yet)
The benefits of such an approach would be significant. If successful, it would eliminate the need for ANY specialized hardware, even if the hardware is relatively inexpensive to begin with like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino. Wireless Vehicle Tracking capability could be attained by using equipment available at any retailer. However, the true advantage of the Arduino boards and the Raspberry Pi is not in the hardware capabilities, but rather then accessibility of the software. By making it easily configurable by non-experts, it makes it possible to reduce the significant resources devoted to software support throughout the devices lifecycle. Nevertheless, OpenWRT is an exciting initiative in of itself, and if the popular GUI interface used by TomatoUSB is any indication, it is entirely possible to make Embedded Linux accessible to the technologically challenged.

License Info