July 20–24, 2015
Portland, OR

Getting under your hood: Cars and computers

John Feminella (Pivotal)
5:00pm–5:40pm Wednesday, 07/22/2015
Protect Portland 255
Average rating: ****.
(4.20, 5 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

You should have driven a car at least once and be familiar with the very basics of how road vehicles work. Other than that, you won't need any specific technical knowledge.


In this talk, I’d like to discuss three points:

  • The right to repair, an intellectual-property right which says if you own something, you should be allowed and able to repair it, and why (in my opinion) it’s a good thing
  • How the increasing complexity of cars and heavy-handedness of manufacturers is making it harder for ordinary people to repair things they own
  • How OBD-2, a diagnostic protocol originally intended to make it easier for people to diagnose what’s happening with their cards, has effectively become a form of DRM in car software.

During the course of the talk, I’ll also demonstrate how you can use a few simple open-source CLI tools to read OBD-2 diagnostic data from your car that can save you an expensive trip to the mechanic.

Ultimately, the goal of the talk is to encourage the audience to hook their computers up to their cars at least once and play around with things a little. It’s fun, educational, and it’s something that should be easy and legal for everyone to do.

Photo of John Feminella

John Feminella


John Feminella is an avid technologist, occasional public speaker, and frequent instigator of assorted shenanigans. He recently co-founded UpHex, a startup providing analytics management for digital agencies and their clients. John is also a guest lecturer at the University of Virginia, mentors budding entrepreneurs, and has earned a lot of meaningless Internet points. He lives in Charlottesville, VA and likes meta-jokes, milkshakes, and referring to himself in the third person in speaker bios.