When the Tesla Model 3 debuted, it followed in the Apple idea of courage: Removing something people use constantly without giving a great explanation as to why. But unlike Apple’s approach to the headphone jack, Tesla offered no adapter or dongle or accessory to bring back the functionality lost with the traditional gauge cluster — just a corner of the existing center screen.
Now, a bit of open-source software has stepped in to fill the void. Piggybacking off of an existing adapter to read information from Tesla’s cars, developer Nick Nguyen has created a free Android app that functions as a dashboard for the Model 3 — right on the screen of your phone.
The app relies on an adapter called CANserver, which reads information from the Tesla’s internal CAN bus — a network of data flowing through the car. The CANserver functions much like any other OBDII scan tool, by taking vehicle information and transmitting it wirelessly to a phone, but the particular adapter allows for in-depth looks at Tesla-specific data. Things like autopilot information and obstacle detection are made possible through the fancy plug-in box.
With the CANserver active, the CANdash app just displays relevant information to the driver. You know, like a dashboard might do. It may not have all the autopilot visualizations available on the Model S’s display, but it’s certainly better than the factory offering on the Model 3 (that is to say, nothing).
Nguyen has stated that the next goal for the CANdash app is to add support for inexpensive OBDII readers, as a way of democratizing the luxury feature that is a functioning gauge cluster. Model 3 and Y owners, however, will still need an adapter to plug those standardized readers into their cars’ non-standard ports. Courage, remember?