Android Tablet Finds New Home In Car Dash

[Matt]’s 2008 Subaru’s stereo wasn’t really cutting the mustard for him anymore. He wanted to do something, something a little more custom than just an aftermarket stereo. After giving it some thought he decided he would try to mount an Android tablet in his car’s dash to act as a media player.

The HTC Evo View tablet appeared to be a great size to fit in the space left over from the stock radio, and it did fit nicely but there was a problem, the AC vent was in the way of the headphone and USB jacks! This was only a minor inconvenience for [Matt]. Instead of butchering the AC vents he decided to disassemble the tablet and see what the other options were. Luckily for him, both the USB and headphone jacks were on their own PCB boards. A quick slot cut in the rear tablet case allowed both connectors to now face towards the front of the car into the gaping crevasse the stock stereo once filled. Since the manipulated tablet case was facing inside the dash it wouldn’t create any unsightliness for the passengers.

With those connections out of the way it was time to focus on mounting the tablet in the dash. The stock trim panel that housed the old radio and two AC vents was modified with a hand-made fiberglass bezel to fit the tablet screen and make it look like the car came that way. The bezel was sanded smooth and painted to match the rest of the interior.

Originally,  [Matt] had to turn the tablet both on and off when starting and stopping the car. He then stumbled upon a product called the IOIO. The IOIO allows an Android device to interact with the inputs and outputs; both digital and analog, I2C, SPI and UART. It even has a voltage regulator that can take the car’s 12v supply and knock it down to 5 for the tablet. [Matt] also connected the IOIO to the car’s ‘ignition on’ circuit to turn the unit on and off with the car.

[Matt] plans on doing more with the IOIO’s capabilities in the future, but until then, he still has a pretty nice looking and unique car stereo.

51 thoughts on “Android Tablet Finds New Home In Car Dash

  1. The IOIO is an interesting take on how to automate the tablet for automotive use. I’ve often pondered about using a micro controller to manually control the external buttons and even take control of the backlight, but haven’t driven myself to split apart a tablet let.

    I’ve got a Samsung Tab 2 in my car that I’ve been torn between removing it or truly hacking it to work simply for the fact that trying to operate it off a car charger and using Tasker and Developer Options only goes so far. The big problem being that the tablet does not go into high rate charging if it is connected to the charger for a period of time with the ignition off.

    Other problems involve keeping programs from operating in the background and draining the battery, my biggest problem causer being the TomTom app which doesn’t like being forced closed and will resume running on its own with the GPS enabled. The only “clean” way to exit that app is to hit the back button and confirm you wish to exit… not very handy for a system you just want active when the ignition is on. Ultimately you end up with a setup that requires some custom coding to work cleanly.

    It makes me wish Android Auto will be backwards compatible to tablets, but that doesn’t appear to be a goal.

    1. Actually, you might be able to do that with nfc tags and tasker. Just use a microcontroller to “enable” the nfc tag by completing the antenna on the nfc, which toggles tasker, which does whatever. Ioio might also have tasker integration, which could do the same thing, but with less fun.

      1. Yeah, maybe tasker has some new options with some of the recent updates, but when I had set it up I couldn’t quite get it to do what I needed… certainly worth another look.

        Honestly, concerning TomTom, I suspect if I actually toggled the power button it would go idle. As it sits right now I’m trying to make the tablet go to sleep when the charger isn’t powered as the power button is physically hidden. It makes me think a simple picaxe could solve a lot of my problems.

  2. i’ve been toying around with in car dash stuff for a while, i think android is a good choice for the apps, but for me a poor choice otherwise. UI is sluggish which makes any custom rendering poor, hard to setup to control properly from an in car environment. Too many layers of abstraction for custom input etc. Obviously other people have diff views, but i like snappy rendering.

    I’ve been thinking about using an XU3 with a mini retina screen, external car switching psu etc. in a dual din

    1. AFAIK, the issue with not using Android (or iOS/Windows Phone) is lack of decent navigation software. It’s been a while since I looked for Windows but I remember the few that there were, weren’t fantastic. I guess an emulator could be used, but I’ve no idea how passing through the gps signal would be.

    2. I’ve had a few android devices (tablets and phones), and generally you get what you pay for with regards to responsiveness. Also, updating to a new version of android on old hardware can cause issues where the tablet hardware struggles to manage the new back end (like Windows 7 on an XP box)

    3. Sounds like you need a custom rom, my friend. I usually disable the glitz anyway and mega-super high resolution display is not a must. I don’t see the point of watching a movie in blu ray quality on a 9 inch screen haha.
      Like yourself, I want data execution, not a pretty picture while the computer collects its purse and all 53 cents of change off of the gas station counter one at a time ;) I hear ya about the snappy rendering. Best of luck on trimming the fat.

      1. yeah unfortunately androids UI code just isn’t that great, theres too many layers of abstraction and the hole davlik/java stuff just doesn’t do well. there’s so much lag from input to screen its unbelievable, 5 goes a king way to improve it, but its way far behind, as much as i really really really hate to say it, IOS is leaps ahead on the UI speed. (really) unfortunately theres no way i’m using IOS , and you can’t really anyway.

        1. I can seem to find any legislation on this matter for the Netherlands, which is odd because our little police state is quite happy to swing that ban hammer around indiscriminately.
          it is not illegal to have a smartphone docked on the dash and those can display some pretty wild content.
          Generally, phones are not banned in cars, but a specific use of them. For screens this could be legislated the same way, although i’d prefere that we would firstly rely on commen sense and perhaps later on micromanaging idiots via law.

          1. I think this could be illegal in australia also, specifically the ability to view movies on a device the driver can see.

            All in dash dvd players come equipped with a wire that needs to be connected to the handbrake and will only allow video to be displayed when the handbrakes engaged, or else most go bluescreen if not. I know bypassing these wires is a big no-no and can result in fines if your caught with a video playing while driving (for what exactly eludes my grasp atm)

            this only applies to a screen thats in the immediate view of the driver though (roof mounted, headrest ect ones are fine)

            Ive also wondered the legalitys of a dash mounted tablet both with being able to play a video while driving, then the operation of one while driving (changing a song ect… seems to be legal on new cars with oem touchscreen dashes)

    1. I think you are mistaking a law that a screen capable of playing back entertainment video is illegal to be in view of the driver, for any screen. Because navigation and menu based systems like iDrive is very common place all over europe.

      In fact many new cars the entire dash instrument cluster is a screen.

    2. Sorry, but BS.

      Using a device which is capable of playing visual media while the vehicle is in motion is illegal.

      That’s why my carputer disables all these functions (including SatNav destination controls) whenever my car is in motion. All i can do while driving is control the music player, the mobile phone handsfree system (which isn’t working anyways) and tell my SatNav to bring me home. Everything else is denied with a “This function is not available while the vehicle is in motion”.

      Also: Many Subaru Infotainment hacks nowasays…i should post the CarPC install in my 2006 Impreza, too.

      1. It would be so brilliant, if people would actually only post factual information, when they offer an opinion that is disguised as facts.

        You may be given a fine for being distracted in traffic, ONLY IF you have been an inconvinience to others. In other words, you cannot get a fine for being distracted (for whatever reason) unless there is some victim of your actions. This follows from the Danish Traffic Code §3, that requires all road users to exercise due care and attention, so that “no danger arises, or no damage or inconvinience is caused towards others, and so that the traffic is not unneccesarely obstructed or disturbed.”

        As for “illegal to operate”, that only applies to HANDHELD devices. Most devices you build permanently into the dashboard of a car wouldn’t be held in your hand at the same time.

        Again the Traffic Code, §55 a: “Drivers of vehicles may not use handheld cellular phones whilst driving”.

        So no, the police can not give you a fine for operating a dash mounted unit of any kind – including a cell phone, as long as it does not offer atleast some inconvinience to other road users – for example if you’re stopped at a red light that turns green, but you’re not moving, because of a cat video on Youtube. If you can manage to distract yourself from said cat video, and do a good job of driving, then your device may show all the videos, you desire and you may operate the unit to your hearts content.

        And if research is too difficult, simply apply logic to your statement – it would certainly be big issues for Sat Nav users (build in, or suction mount in windscreen), or even basic car radio users, if you were not allowed to operate such fixed devices. As for being distracted – sure – but you can get that fine for eating an icecream, yelling at your kids or putting on make up, if you’re doing those things while driving, and you inconvinience others.

  3. Should be interesting to see how long the tablet survives in the car. Most consumer electronics aren’t engineered to exist in the harsh environment (electrically & environmentally) of an automobile.

    1. Zotax Zbox plus with a 250GB HDD (Yes, HDD, it still lives and hasn’t shown any errors), a cheap chinese 7″ touchscreen, a cheap chinese TI-based Class-D Amplifier and some other bits and pieces running for about 5 years in a slightly lowered, therefore a bit hard, 2006 Subaru Impreza 2.0R over here.. No problems at all.

  4. Why not try the obvious – get an off-the-shelf car entertainment system that runs Android out of the box?

    The last time I looked at this you could get an Android 4.2.2 based 2-DIN unit with an ISO connector on the back. Add an adapter to match the Subaru electronics and you have a box that will do all the nasty power conversion, drive the speakers, has a radio, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and touch screen display, reversing camera and all the other bits in a single unit that was designed to go in a car from day 1.

    Checking on Ebay you can get them for a price that makes the time and effort you invest in the vehicle and was intended to operate there from day 1.

    I’m not knocking the effort put in here – it’s just that progress seems to have made most of the effort pointless.

    1. Because the vast majority of those off the shelf systems suck horribly, have terrible displays, questionable hardware, slow and outdated CPU/GPU, very little ram, very little storage with no expansion capabilities and much more… Not to mention, they’re terribly overpriced for what you get and the quality of the product…

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