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Hendon Publishing

Nautech Upfit Gateway Interface

Proper equipment and vehicle integration is one of the biggest challenges faced by upfitters today. This is regardless of the emergency equipment they are installing, and regardless of the vehicle they are putting it into. Other challenges are upfitting ergonomics and aftermarket equipment quality.

End users expect the aftermarket equipment to work in concert with the vehicle. When it doesn’t, upfitters and the dealer who sold the vehicle have the responsibility to sort out why not. For the upfitter, no matter who they are, private business or government facility, this is getting harder every day. It is not just about the upfit anymore.

Carmakers have continually improved vehicle technology by adding an increasing number of electronic devices used to replace mechanical systems and provide additional convenience and safety features within their vehicles. Until the mid-1990s, enormous amounts of wire were used throughout the vehicle to connect the various electronic components. Thanks to the invention of the CAN Bus system by Robert Bosch GmBH, things have changed. Today, all vehicles use a derivative of this innovative technology.

A CAN Bus (Controller Area Network) is a universally accepted protocol or code that is used by all OE vehicle manufacturers to allow them to run all vehicle systems using a series of electronic modules or electronic control units (ECU) connected together with minimal wiring. This saves cost and weight in the vehicle. It also allows greater flexibility and more sophisticated control of the systems used in the operation of the vehicle.

The ECUs control everything from air bags and HVAC controls to streaming your favorite song from your smart phone to the entertainment system. Each OE manufacturer uses the CAN Bus data in ways unique to them to provide the best solution for their particular vehicle’s operation and functionality. In GM’s case, they call the system installed in their law enforcement vehicles the GM LAN (local area network).

For an upfitter adding emergency warning equipment to a vehicle this is an often-misunderstood technology and that can create plenty of headaches. For most upfitters, access to the knowledge or training needed to sort it all out is not easily found. Installing anything more than a lightbar and siren can quickly become an expensive mistake if done incorrectly.

On-board emergency, communications and evidence-gathering equipment continues to grow in number and sophistication. This requires a continually higher level of integration with the OE vehicle systems to work properly and safely. GeneralMotors has recognized this.

In an effort to meet the demands of the market, GM has partnered with NautechElectronics to both simplify the process of upfitting a vehicle and enhance the integration between the aftermarket equipment and the vehicle. Their joint development is a soon-to-be-released new product called an Upfit Gateway Interface Module, UGI.

The UGI is an interface between the GM CAN system used in the vehicle and the aftermarket equipment to be installed by an upfitter. The effect of the UGI is to decode the GM data so it is available to upfitters in a form that will allow them to more closely and safely integrate aftermarket equipment into the vehicle without risk of damage to the OE vehicle systems.


The UGI module plugs into a designated circuit in the trunk of the Caprice. It provides access to previously unobtainable or difficult-to-find vehicle data for use in aftermarket systems. The UGI will be available from Kerr Industries for the Chevrolet Caprice PPV in early summer of 2013.

Some but not all of this data is available from the vehicle today as signal wires within the standard 6J1 harness. This harness is found in the front passenger floor board of every Chevrolet police vehicle. With a UGI module installed, it will be available from a single location inside the vehicle making equipment installations simpler and more efficient.


An upfitter will no longer need to risk damaging a vehicle by splicing into a factory wire to try to get a vehicle signal they need. It will be available through the UGI. The upfitter can be certain the signal they are getting is the correct one for the application and is approved by GM.

Like most computer based products, the UGI module has plenty of scope for future development. For example, the module has a USB and a CAN port output built into it. By using a simple PC user interface, vehicle data can transfer through the UGI to an MDT and back office systems. The ability to connect the car directly to the police department’s corporate computer network will allow fleet managers to create reports on the status of their fleets that have previously been impossible to capture accurately.

The UGI module also contains eight simple digital outputs that can be coupled to GM LAN vehicle data to activate aftermarket systems in whatever way the fleet would like to use them. For example, seat belt use while the vehicle is in motion can be confirmed to avoid costly non-compliance issues. As another example, an air bag deployment can trigger an SOS call to home base if the rest of the aftermarket equipment fitted to the vehicle can also support the application.

In Australia, the home of both Nautech Electronics and the Chevrolet Caprice police car, a Caprice PPV is being tested with the UGI interface displaying aftermarket MDT data on the OE in-dash touchscreen. This is done by the UGI module translating the touch screen inputs on the OE screen to the MDT computer which in turn updates the OE screen via the MDT video output.


Using this method of digital communication between the OE and aftermarket systems means the touchscreen in the dash of the car can be used as the siren and lighting controller or to display basic dispatch information.

Many emergency equipment manufacturers are now also using CAN Bus technology in their lightbars and siren systems so the integration possibilities between the vehicle and the equipment can go much further still. It is expected that once upfitters and emergency equipment manufacturers become familiar with the UGI that additional applications will quickly be found and put to good use.

It is not just about the police vehicle delivered from the factory any more. GM and their technical partners have recognized that challenge and are committed to enhancing vehicle integration to match the needs of the industry.


Data from Nautech UGI includes:


  • Odometer readings

  • Vehicle speed sensors

  • Engine rpm

  • Battery voltage

  • Engine temperature

  • Oil temperature

  • Oil pressure/level

  • Fuel level

  • Vehicle fault code

  • Air bag deployments

  • Door lock status

  • Seat belt latch status

  • Surveillance mode

  • Door closure status

  • Battery voltage

  • Engine running status

  • Park brake status

  • Transmission gear selection

  • Ignition key position

  • Hazard switch status

  • Exterior lamp status

  • HVAC status

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2013

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