Paul Ryabchuk
Blog post

How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

The latest vehicle tracking systems go beyond traditional location and navigation functions, becoming essential add-ons for every car

March 15, 2018

8 mins read

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Looking for your keys again? Can’t find your left sock? The struggle is real. Wouldn’t it be perfect if you knew exactly where they were? A GPS system can tell you just that, and if you use one for business purposes – like for tracking an entire fleet of vehicles – it can bring serious financial benefits. This is all possible thanks to GPS tracking software.

The fleet management industry was the first to adopt GPS tracking technology, with taxi services following. Now, automotive business owners are looking to tracking systems as a way to reduce expenses, improve driving behavior, and track maintenance issues.

But is it really profitable from the business point of view to place a tracking device in each vehicle? Is it good value for the money? And, most importantly, how can you build a GPS tracking system that will meet your budget and all functional requirements? Let’s find out.  

Now, automotive business owners are looking to tracking systems as a way to reduce expenses, improve driving behavior, and track maintenance issues.

What is GPS tracking and how does it work?

How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

The Global Positioning System (GPS) uses satellite signals to provide information on the exact location, movement, direction, and speed of an object with a tracker. To broadcast its location, a GPS tracker typically uses the same technology that a cell phone does to make calls and connect to the internet. Tracking systems can be used in vehicles, mobile phones, and other portable and fixed units. 

GPS uses satellite signals to provide information on the exact location, movement, direction, and speed of an object with a tracker.

But GPS isn’t a synonym for navigation. The difference between a GPS car tracking system and navigation is that navigation provides your location plus directions to get you where you’re going, while a tracker only broadcasts your live location (to you or someone else) or keeps a record of your movements and speed. 

GPS tracking system components 

How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

A tracking system consists of a GPS satellite, a tracking device (hardware), wireless connectivity, a server, an interface, and sometimes a signal receiver and a GPS vehicle tracking API. To be more precise, a car tracker usually has the following elements:

  • Mobile module (a phone plus receiver or a single GPS tracker) 
  • Sealed box for the module 
  • Car adapter (to connect the GPS unit to the onboard network) 
  • Built-in or removable battery 
  • Software 
  • Server 
  • Network connection 

A tracking system can work in two ways: actively or passively. Active tracking offers real-time positioning of an object, while passive tracking records the object’s position at specific time intervals and defines the location between recorded points with the help of trilateration. With passive tracking, the GPS tracker needs additional memory. Still, both of these tracking methods are essential for traffic management that relies on the location of vehicles and their movement.

GPS accuracy is critical for autopilot functionality

How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

If a needle had a GPS tracker, finding it in a haystack wouldn’t be a problem. The information provided by GPS signals is so accurate that it can pinpoint your location within meters, but there’s already a way to make it as accurate as a few centimeters. Such accuracy is crucial for advanced autopilot functionality and autonomous vehicles that will enter the automotive market in a couple of years. So, it’s not surprising that GPS car tracking software is in high demand at the moment. 

A new market research report states that the GPS tracking device market is expected to reach $2.89 billion by 2023. 

Read more: Find out what real-time traffic services Intellias has delivered to the world’s largest LBS provider

What GPS vehicle features do people like to use?

How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

GPS tracking services let you know where your vehicle is at any time. This is useful for many people in many scenarios:  

  • drivers can locate their stolen cars 
  • business owners and operators can manage fleets of vehicles 
  • drivers and business owners can keep maintenance records 
  • taxi drivers can easily hold records of fares
  • parents can track their inexperienced teenage drivers  

But that’s not all. Modern systems can do a good deal more than just define vehicle location. Advanced GPS vehicle tracking systems can not only tell you where your car is being driven but also how it’s being driven. They can identify poor driving behavior such as hard braking, rapid acceleration, and excessive speed, and can show road sections where this behavior happened.

On top of that, advanced systems feature maintenance reminders and trouble code readers, which are essential for both commercial and personal vehicles. Plus, car trackers can show the cheapest fuel nearby – a feature valued by truck drivers and fleet managers.

Read more: Driverless electric trucks will require new fleet management software – a fact that OEMs can’t ignore

Advanced GPS vehicle tracking systems can identify poor driving behavior such as hard braking, rapid acceleration, and excessive speed, and can show the road sections where this behavior happened.

 How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

GPS tracking systems aren’t only a handy feature  they’re a critical element of autonomous driving, which is one of the top trends in the automotive industry. This means that the demand for advanced tracking software will continue to grow, and OEMs, as well as automotive software vendors, should keep up the pace. 

How can you make your own GPS tracking software? 

How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

Eager to create a car tracking app or even an entire system yourself? That’s great! While the advantages of developing a vehicle tracking app or system are pretty obvious, the disadvantages include, well, the fact that you have to build it yourself, which requires a lot of skills. But developing a car tracking system is perfectly possible if you know what you’re doing. Now, don’t give us that “easy for you to say” look. Here are some recommendations to get you started.

The process of creating a tracking system includes: 

  1. building a tracking device  
  2. setting up the necessary hardware  
  3. developing software for it 

You’ll need a microcontroller, GSM and GPS modules, a relay circuit, and an LCD display. Here’s how a GPS car tracker works. The basic software for your homemade car tracker has to send a command for an action to the modem via a cell phone or computer. After receiving the command, the GSM modem processes and transmits it to the microcontroller unit (MCU) where the command is performed. After programming the MCU, you have to create a web page or a GPS car tracking app to interpret the latitude and longitude and show the vehicle location on the map.  

If you want to track more than one car or receive more complex data, you’ll need to develop a web-based system that also includes a web application and a server system. In this case, you’ll have to create a web and a desktop app as well as design a database. 

If you want to track more than one car or receive more complex data, you’ll need to develop a web-based system that also includes a web application and a server system.

The cost of building a tracking device by hand is considerably lower than the cost of buying solution on the market. Also, the advantages of developing a vehicle tracking system on your own include availability of the elements and an understandable work process. On the other hand, developing a car tracking system yourself will require some serious software and hardware programming skills, and even with those, you won’t be able to go far beyond basic tracking functionality.

Contact our experts to get an exhaustive consultation on creating a custom GPS tracking system for your business
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What’s on the GPS market?

How to Build a GPS Car Tracking System

There are a bunch of offers available on the market that provide both active and passive tracking. Most often, GPS tracking software is used as part of fleet management systems. 

If you are a fleet owner struggling to save on fuel expenses, it’s best to invest in a good GPS fleet tracking software. The best ones in the market even allow you to stay tuned to your vehicles on route via smartphone apps.

For non-commercial vehicles, modern GPS trackers are complemented by anti-theft systems. When car owner gets a notification about suspicious activity in the car, he or she can remotely command the built-in GPS receiver to turn off the engine or turn on the alarm. And the cherry on top is that many insurance companies offer discounts for both commercial and personal vehicles with GPS tracking systems since they help to improve driver behavior and provide a record of driving behavior.  

The general drawbacks of car tracking software available on the market today are:

  • delays in data updates 
  • lack of GPS vehicle tracking apps for mobile devices 
  • GPS vehicle tracking policies (web-based tracking apps often require signing a user agreement that includes the possibility of sharing data with third parties) 
  • the high price of advanced solutions 

Ironically, it seems that finding a needle in a haystack would be easier than finding a GPS tracking system that fits both your budget and your technical requirements. But if we could give you just one piece of advice on selecting the right GPS car tracking system, we’d recommend focusing on your must-have functions and going from there. Or you can build your own GPS car tracking software tailored to your specific requirements with professionals at Intellias.  


Developing GPS tracking software may not sound like a big deal, but there are a lot of things to consider. If you’re a tech enthusiast who enjoys the process and isn’t just concentrating on the result, then building your own tracking system is a good pick. But if you need a reliable solution with more than one function, you should let experts develop high-quality GPS vehicle tracking software for you.  


Intellias knows a thing or two about the innovative tendencies of the automotive industry and can help you combine all the elements you need into a solid GPS car tracking system. Be sure to contact our experts to get an exhaustive consultation on creating a custom GPS tracking system for your business. 

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