Using A Raspberry Pi To Give Your Car More Features

[Andrei] is cruising in style thanks to his Raspi-powered CarPC project, which is a steal at $200 considering all the functionality it provides. This is an update to the work we saw from him back in March. Rather than completely replace his car’s head unit, [Andrei] simply relocated it to the trunk, permanently set it to the “aux input” source, and connected the Raspberry Pi’s audio output. The Pi runs a Raspbian Wheezy distro with XBMC and is mounted in the storage area beneath the middle armrest. [Andrei] filled the hole left by the old stereo with a 7-inch touchscreen display, which connects to the Pi through both HDMI and USB. If you throw the car into reverse, the Pi automatically selects the touchscreen’s AV input to display the car’s backup camera, then flips back when put in drive.

The unit also provides navigation via the open-source Navit software using OpenStreetMap data. An ST22 SkyTraq GPS receiver grabs coordinates and feeds them into the Raspi, which updates the on-screen map once per second. You’ll want to watch the video after the break (Audio Warning: Tupac) to see for yourself just how well the CarPC came together,

45 thoughts on “Using A Raspberry Pi To Give Your Car More Features

  1. I was thinking about picking up a Nexus 7 (First gen) and doing this. It would cut the cost in half. Also google maps is way better. I do love all the thought that was put into this, very well done!

      1. That hasn’t been true for a while now. Google Maps will cache 100 or more mb of maps. You might not be able to drive cross country without a signal, but in a county or small state sure. Also, even the slowest cellular data signal will be enough for google maps.

    1. i wouldn’t depend on a setup like that. two times I’ve been led into forest by google maps because i went off the grid and it never said when to turn. roads slowly became primitive-ish and then really a path of gravel. which is when I realized what has happened

  2. Nice build, I’m going to build something very much like this, but instead of a usb radio, using a car stereo to get am and fm reception. I’m waiting for the parts to arrive from china now. Also I was thinking of using my phone (atrix 4g) for the gps over bluetooth.

    1. What kind of radio are you intending to use?
      I have tried with ADS Instant FM which is based on SI470x but the sound is not good at all through usb.
      I have bought a SI470x I2C based module, with separate audio output but I am waiting to receive it.

  3. To do something like this for my 1997 Taurus (thankfully without the electronic automatic climate control) I’d have to make a new “football” panel to hold the manual HVAC controls.

    I have an aftermarket one for a 1DIN radio. What would be better, and completely theft deterrent (I doubt one of the stock control panels in these cars was ever stolen), is a CD changer emulator to plug into the changer port on the main unit in the trunk. Since it supports a 6 disc changer an emulator could hold up to 594 songs – six directories each with up to 99 tracks. Control would be via the stock CD control buttons.

    Emulators like this exist for various vehicles, including Fords, but for some reason NOT for the radios used in the 3rd Gen Taurus/Sable and the huge numbers of contemporary Ford trucks that had this same changer as an option.

    Design one and properly promote it and there’d be a market for thousands of them.

  4. I use the public roads also, so. Keep your eyes on the road please. Non tactal touch (screen) has no place in a moving vehicle. The Federal government has determined that a few digits-letters in five seconds is all that is safe to see while driving. New laws are coming, concerning video screens in vehicles.
    Your car while driving isn’t an office, chat room, movie theater, game palace, or any other visual toy that you can take you’re eyes off the road to ‘uck with.

    The hack therefore is to figure a way to do needed things safely with feel and touch. Everything in a car excepting the brake, steering, and turn signals, etc must be able to be operated and enjoyed by the blind. A navigator will talk you in, only rarely need it a glance to check a turn.
    Lastly keep the factory setup, resale value with a custom-hack or hole in the dash hurts. Good ‘ol radio still comes in handy in strange locales, and weather. Patching into the amp is the way to go as most factory radios aren’t worth stealing, so go with low profile gear and upgrade the hidden stuff instead.

    1. Sigh… Thanks mom. I am not fond of touch screen only car interfaces but they do seem to be very common. Frankly the benefit of not having to try and follow a paper map while driving far outways the negatives IMHO.

    2. Do they not have stop lights where you live?? I mean, I hate non tactile car UIs too, but that’s a whole lot of words for “taking your eyes off the road while moving is self-evidently dumb.”

  5. All CarPC seem to do everything but what is REALLY needed of a carPC, which is maintaining the car itself. I got into the carPC craze a while back, and really it was just a glorified Nav, MP3, and video player and sometimes bluetooth handsfree set.

    Not much focus on OBDII. Being able to handle things such as watching fuel economy, replacing dash gauges, and ultimately tracking maintenance. That is the stuff I would like to do. I just can’t bring myself to build another one until I can see those types of features.

    Commercial decks currently do just about anything a custom carPC build does for much less, it seems.

    Finally, ultimately to cut costs completely down, integrating an Android tablet as the carPC would seem the best way to go. We really need some effort to get straight linux running on those.

    1. We really need some effort to get straight linux running on those.
      Ubuntu runs on the Nexus 7.
      I like some of our ideas about the ODBC interface and was thinking the same thing. You could also use the ODBC along with the compass that most smart phones have to supplement the GPS with dead reckoning when in a tunnel or possibly a city where the GPS is iffy.
      While I like my nexus the issue I see a lack of IO. Tablets will be very limited in total IO to just one USB, Wifi, and Bluetooth.
      I was thinking something like this
      It has a SATA interface for mass storage and I2S so you could add FM/HD radio and or a weather alert radio. Not to mention SPI, com ports, and GPIO. It may also be fast enough to use Sphinx and Festival for a voice interface.

      1. USB is not limited when you use a hub, wifi works with anything using wifi, and native bluetooth can operate with multiple devices at once.

        There are tons of USB phidgets.

        A tablet may not have the IO, but honestly, it can be added. And a cheap android tablet costs $40 compared to all the hardware you would have to purchase to get the cubieboard to even compare to a tablet.

        Besides, there are several other purposes that a tablet running linux can serve. I will check out the Nexus 7.

        1. “USB is not limited when you use a hub”
          Yes it is. Try running a camera, some io, and access a drive through USB 2.0 with a hub. You are still limited to the one USB port’s speed.
          It can be done but the board I showed has a nice fast SATA port for an SSD. It also supports I2S, SPI, and CAN bus. You can use a tablet but this board gives you a lot more IO to work with than a tablet plus several Linux distros to choose from.

          1. Sigh… missing the point entirely. Take your board, an LCD controller, and LCD panel, a touchscreen, a touchscreen controller, a WIFI adapter…. and on and on and on and you have more than quadrupled the price of a tablet. That’s my point.

            Yes, of course the throughput is limited to the speed of a single USB port. But, Seriously? Honestly? The peripherals that would be used in a car application would NOT be a limitation.

            Even in your case, try running all of that at once even with dedicated IO. Do you really think it is doing all of it simultaneously in parallel?

            My point still stands that android tablets have a lot of hardware in a cheap package. It would more than meet the majority of needs for tons of applications.

  6. Looks like the description is a tad off, his switching to reverse isn’t making the rPi load the backup camera, that’s a built in feature to most of the DIY touch screens. They get wired to +12, IGN and GND, and there’s an extra wire that is meant to piggy back on the reverse light wire. So it’s just the display switching inputs to the backup cam.

    Also, not sure if anyone’s thought of or addressed this issue yet, but I thought the rPi didn’t have an onboard clock. So hopefully he’s added some code to it that updates the system time using the GPS at system boot.

  7. The other day I had a chance to get my hands on a Raspberry Pi. With the option of running Python and using a great app called rPlay which allows you to use your Raspberry Pi as an apple TV. So here was the idea of ordering the iHUD and connecting the Raspberry Pi to it so I can use any Application from my iPhone and its displayed to the windshield wirelessly. Which means I was able to use Siri to search over voice control in Maps enter the location and start the navigator and everything was displayed on my windshield. You don’t need to take your eyes off the road anymore.
    To get more information visit

  8. How can I get the TouchScreen working ? I bougth a Screen but I think I made a mistake and bought it without the TouchScreen function ,Should I buy a new one or is it possible to buy a adapter so it can be touchscreen ? a digitizer like the iPhone or smartphones use ? Any feedback would be appreciated !

  9. Hi andrei,

    Increible work, for sound pop you can try to keep out by adding audio ground isolation amplifier or audio isolation transformers before your radio aux source. A 10 uf in series capacitor filtering can be good idea.

    Please, can you tell me how do you integrate the navigation software to raspbcm? Any Tutorials?
    The navigation speed is limited to 1sec by gps hardware or is raspberry hardware or software issue?
    Do you know if another features can e added to raspbcm? Can add custom apps created with qtcreator?

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