Car PC

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Odemia
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Car PC

Post by Odemia » Tue May 17, 2011 9:06 pm

Was doing some maintenance work on my car todayand it got me thinking of a project I tried to post a couple of times.

I want to replace my in dash stereo on my 2006 civic. There is a 2006 civic model with a 7" sat nav. So I am thinking of replacing the appropriate section of the dash with the one for that sat nav and then would need:
1) 7" Android Tablet
Basic idea is strip this down and put it where the sat nav would go and then connect power and usb hub.
Recent news from Google IO is promising. It looks like usb drivers aren't going to be an issue in honey comb. But I will be curious to see someone connect an OBD-II usb module to android device.
2) DC-DC PS
I have seen some good car power supplies that should work great.
3) USB Hub
To allow multiple connections.
4) GPS puck
May be able to get away without, just using the GPS in the tablet. But my guess is GPS won't work correctly with the tablet facing into the car.
5) OBD-II module
For logging everything OBD-II.
6) Audio output/Amplifier
If I am going to take the stero out I had better connect something in it's place.

I have priced this all out a couple months ago and it was comparable to an after market carpc/sat nav. I imagine with all the new tablets the price should get even better and I may be able to get a gsm enabled tablet for wireless connectivity.

Any way, I am really curious for input. I have hardly done any automotive work and I am also curious to see how easy it will be to connect usb devices to android devices.

drostar
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Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:19 am

Re: Car PC

Post by drostar » Wed May 18, 2011 11:32 am

I've been thinking about a Car PC for my supra for a loooong time. The scariest part is modifying the dash piece to hold the screen and make it look good (they didn't have a nav system option back in 89). I'm thinking an android tablet would be perfect for this because it has many features built right into the tablet itself. The news about USB peripherals for android is good news. I think the biggest advantages of using an android tablet over a regular PC is
-> everything built into a compact device - no need to sacrifice your glove box (or any other space) to use it as a PC enclosure. This will majorly simplify the install. You'll even end up with extra space behind the screen (where the radio was) for custom hardware.
-> instant on - no waiting for boot or coming out of sleep when you turn the key
-> built-in battery which should be plenty of juice to keep it alive between drives and won't drain the car battery.

I saw a video on youtube demonstrating an android tablet's GPS was still usable while installed in the dash (can't look it up now - can't access youtube) but using an external antenna would probably improve GPS performance.

SuaveLemon
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Joined: Fri May 06, 2011 10:00 am

Re: Car PC

Post by SuaveLemon » Wed May 18, 2011 11:59 am

Depending on what you want to do with your carputer, I'd shy away from an android tablet and possibly go for a modified netbook instead. Android is really nice, I'm a huge fan, but both windows and linux are both compatible with more peripherals and software, and a netbook would have more power.

I believe that it is possible to run android on a netbook if you really wanted android. You should even be able to run windows, linux and android on a netbook if you set things up right. I envision booting up a copy of backtrack linux off of a usb thumbdrive when you want to go wardriving, then switching over to android/windows later for other applications.

The system would definitely need to be removable from the car, as I've seen really cold weather do horrible things to lcd screens and other electronics.

I realize that this is overly-complex and is probably not what you are looking for, I'm just throwing my thoughts down in text.

If you do end up going for an android tablet, don't cheap out and get a low end one. I made that mistake, and I regret it. Ensure that it has a capacitive touch screen, a minimum of 256 mb ram (preferably 512), and a good processor. Be very careful with the no-name Chinese tablets out there, I've seen misrepresented specs and a huge lack of support.

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DigitalOSH
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Re: Car PC

Post by DigitalOSH » Wed May 18, 2011 3:00 pm

I would beg to differ. A tablet has so much hardware built right into it, and you can 'install' one while still using what you have. Replacing your head unit with a computer would be very difficult, especially if you want to maintain steering wheel controls for volume, etc. but if you have something with aux in, you can very easily mount a tablet with three pieces of metal that would be nearly invisible when the tablet is not in place. You could probably do something similar with a netbook-to-tablet conversion, but why bother when the tablet can do most of what you need and is natively touchscreen?

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Odemia
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Re: Car PC

Post by Odemia » Wed May 18, 2011 9:01 pm

DigitalOSH wrote:Replacing your head unit with a computer would be very difficult, especially if you want to maintain steering wheel controls for volume
Steering wheel controls isn't an issue in my case just amplification. Would be nice to add controls but from what I have found the parts are like $300+.

I was a little disappointed when I read up on the Android Arduino gizmo. Apparently Android is only a slave so connecting a GPS puck and OBD-II module isn't going to be as easy as I thought. There are also reports of keyboards etc working with some builds of Android. I have also seen plenty of people that have ubuntu running on their phones, although without a lot of hardware support, I wonder if they are able to use the usb port in master mode? Or worst case an arduino/arduino like device would need to be added as a master controller.

The point about freezing screens is also a good one.

I will have research Android peripheral situation and built in audio situation some more.

SuaveLemon
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Joined: Fri May 06, 2011 10:00 am

Re: Car PC

Post by SuaveLemon » Thu May 19, 2011 12:10 pm

@DigitalOSH
I agree with you that an android tablet would be a much more elegant solution, it would be easier to install, and it would be easier to make it look good. I guess it really comes down to what you want to do with it. If you want to just use it for gps and music, android would definitely be the way to go.

I guess that I just like having the flexibility of an actual pc, I'd like the extra storage that you get from a real hard drive, multiple external usb ports, the ability to have external wifi and gps antennas, and the ability to change my os to suit my needs. There are even linux distros designed specifically for use in a car (http://www.openice.org). Installing an actual netbook or pc into a car would be much more difficult and expensive, but you would have a more robust system in the end.

Of course there are some alternatives out there, such as the SmartQ V7 (which is admittedly a bit underpowered, but is also somewhat inexpensive), it runs Ubuntu, Android, and WinCE, has video out, a usb port etc.. You almost get the best of both worlds with a device such as this. I've read mixed reviews about the SmartQ V7, so I might not go for that specific model, but I'd like to see similar devices come on to the market.


I'm not sure what to say about the OBD-II module, but in regards to the GPS module, have you considered using a bluetooth gps module? There are some pretty decent ones available from sites like dealextreme for pretty cheap.

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Odemia
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Re: Car PC

Post by Odemia » Sun May 22, 2011 12:37 pm

SuaveLemon wrote:I'm not sure what to say about the OBD-II module, but in regards to the GPS module, have you considered using a bluetooth gps module? There are some pretty decent ones available from sites like dealextreme for pretty cheap.
Hadn't thought of that. I guess the down side would be having to charge it or run power for it. But would simplify eliminate a lot of the issues with connecting it to a tablet.

Also was looking at the dash the other day trying to think of where I would mount a screen if not in the dash. There is a real lack of real estate. About the only place would be infront of the stick shift (which is pretty low for a nav system) or ontop of the dash to the left against the frame. Mounting it above the stereo would just block too much of my view out of the car.

I am liking the idea of an actual car PC as I look deaper into how it would work, but the cost of a good touch screen is ~$700 or the same price as a 3g capable tablet of the same size. It's ridiculous.

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DigitalOSH
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Re: Car PC

Post by DigitalOSH » Wed May 25, 2011 11:16 am

This struck me as extremely interesting

http://www.mp3car.com/mimics/

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