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A Comprehensive Journey into SAAB 9-3 ‘ICM2’ Display Hacking

Revolutionizing Automotive Displays: The SAAB 9-3 'ICM2' Hackathon Unveiled

Driving Innovation: Leigh Oliver's SAAB 9-3 'ICM2' Display Hacking ProjectDriving Innovation: Leigh Oliver's SAAB 9-3 'ICM2' Display Hacking Project

In the world of automotive aficionados and electronics enthusiasts, certain projects have the power to captivate and inspire. One such project is Leigh Oliver’s exploration of the SAAB 9-3 Gen2’s Infotainment Control Module 2 (ICM2) display.

Within the classic green-on-black instrumentation of the 2003 SAAB 9-3 Gen2 lies a world waiting to be unlocked, reverse-engineered, and transformed. This article delves into the intricate details of Leigh Oliver’s journey, highlighting the ingenious techniques, challenges, and the potential for a brighter automotive future.

The Allure of SAAB’s ICM2 Display

For Leigh Oliver, there’s an undeniable appeal in the green-on-black instrumentation of the 2003 SAAB 9-3 Gen2. The ICM2 display brings a touch of the iconic Matrix vibe to the daily commute, a nostalgic charm that deserves more than to be stuck displaying the nearly 20-year-old stock user interface. But how does one go about breathing new life into this automotive relic? The answer lies in reverse engineering and the power of I2C communication.

Reverse Engineering: Peeling Back the Layers

To embark on this transformative journey, Leigh had to start at the very core of the ICM2 module. Disassembling the module was the first step, giving him a firsthand look at the heart of the SAAB’s digital world. Armed with a multimeter and high-resolution photographs capturing both sides of the PCB, Leigh meticulously mapped out and recreated all the traces using KiCAD.

Peering into the Digital Heart: Leigh's Disassembly and KiCAD Mapping of the ICM2 Module
“Built from Jets” – Peering into the Digital Heart: Leigh’s Disassembly and KiCAD Mapping of the ICM2 Module

While one might argue that this step was not strictly necessary, it proved to be a valuable learning experience in using KiCAD. For anyone looking to build practical experience in creating schematics, Leigh’s meticulous approach serves as an invaluable tip.


The I2C Revelation: Unveiling the Power of Communication

With every trace mapped out, Leigh moved forward in his quest to decode the ICM2’s secrets. This step was arguably the pivotal moment in the project. As he connected a BusPirate V3 to the board, a revelation occurred. The ICM2 was using I2C to control the display. This discovery was nothing short of a jackpot in the world of reverse engineering, as it opened up the doors to repurposing the display with ease.

Crafting a New Narrative: The Power of Adafruit_GFX

With the knowledge that the ICM2 communicated via I2C, Leigh’s journey moved into a new phase. He was now armed with the ability to communicate with the display and potentially create something far beyond the limitations of the stock user interface.

This is where Leigh’s skills as an electronics enthusiast truly shone. He developed a display library based on Adafruit_GFX, providing the ICM2 display with graphical capabilities that went well beyond its original capabilities. The once-static green-on-black interface now had the potential to come alive with dynamic content, offering a glimpse into the limitless possibilities of this project.

The Road Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities

While significant progress has been made in the SAAB 9-3 ‘ICM2’ Display Hacking project, it’s important to acknowledge that this journey is far from over. Leigh’s work has enabled the display to showcase impressive imagery, but there are still challenges to overcome on the hardware side of things.

Empowering the ICM2 Display: Custom Graphics and Vehicle Insights in Action
Empowering the ICM2 Display: Custom Graphics and Vehicle Insights in Action

One exciting aspect on the horizon is the possibility of integrating an I2C multiplexer. This addition could facilitate seamless switching between the “stock” mode and an enhanced version, courtesy of new libraries and the presence of an ESP8266 concealed behind the dashboard. The prospect of a dynamic, user-customizable display beckons, and the possibilities are as vast as Leigh’s determination to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Beyond SAAB: Expanding the Horizons

One might wonder if this project is limited to SAAB enthusiasts alone. The answer is a resounding no. Leigh’s innovative approach transcends the confines of a single automotive brand. In fact, similar results can be achieved on a wide range of vehicles by connecting an OLED display to the OBD port. The spirit of innovation knows no bounds, and Leigh’s project serves as a testament to the endless possibilities that await those willing to explore the intersection of technology and automotive excellence.

Unleashing the Frustration: Hacking the ESP-IDF Bluetooth Examples for 'Track Playback Position
Unleashing the Frustration: Hacking the ESP-IDF Bluetooth Examples for ‘Track Playback Position

Leigh Oliver’s Call to Action

As Leigh Oliver continues to push the envelope and enhance the legacy of the SAAB brand, he extends an open invitation to all SAAB enthusiasts and electronics aficionados. The details of this project can be explored on his dedicated GitHub repository, where a treasure trove of knowledge and insights awaits: GitHub Repository.

For those who wish to be part of this exciting journey and contribute to the evolution of this project, Leigh has provided a hub at Hackaday. Join the community, share your ideas, and become a driving force in reshaping the world of Saab and beyond.

Reviving the Road: The SAAB 9-3 ‘ICM2’ Display Hacking Odyssey

The SAAB 9-3 ‘ICM2’ Display Hacking project spearheaded by Leigh Oliver is a testament to the power of reverse engineering, innovation, and the unbridled enthusiasm of electronics enthusiasts. It sheds light on the boundless potential that lies within the seemingly mundane components of our daily lives.

As Leigh’s journey continues, the allure of the green-on-black SAAB display is reinvigorated, opening the door to a future where automotive interfaces can be customized, enhanced, and brought to life in ways previously unimagined. With every step, Leigh invites fellow enthusiasts to join the adventure, making this project not only a technical achievement but a collaborative endeavor that inspires and paves the way for a brighter automotive future.

The SAAB 9-3 ‘ICM2’ Display Hacking project is a testament to the fact that innovation knows no bounds, and the fusion of technology and automotive excellence has the power to transform our driving experience into something extraordinary.

1 Comment

  • But the real answer we are all waiting patiently on the edge of our seats for….

    Can it play: “Bad Apple”?

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