February 29, 2008

535 words 3 mins read

Carputer

A long time ago in a galax…. Ok, just a long time ago I ran across the idea of a “Carputer” or “CarPC” (or what ever the hell you want to call them). Basically you build a small computer into your car, wire it to run off your battery and put an LCD where your radio is. When I first ran across this concept way back when, alot of people were still using small TV’s and Mini ITX wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye of its creators. While I loved this idea, and wanted to do it — I couldn’t.

Fast Forward to today. I have the means, the money and I think the technology has evolved enough for me to actually follow up on this. I’m going to be getting a new car here soon, and shortly there after its going to be a law that you have to use a headset with your cell phones in vehicles (California). So, I want to build a Carputer. Of course I promptly dove into the net and spent hours surfing, researching, and googling. After my first few days of research, I’ve determined a few things: 1) that this project wont be easy — from the software side of things its still very much alpha/beta (aka you put it together yourself). 2) There are some interesting and promising toys coming out soon that should be of use. 3) PEOPLE ARE STUPID.

Why #3 (this time) you ask? Because basically every front end for Carputers is built around media. Even some suggestions of using MythTV as your front end. For the love of god people — the car is not the place to be watching DVDs. Don’t get me wrong — if you want to have a DVD player in the back for the little ones — great. But you should NEVER EVER have a DVD/Video/Etc playing device within eye shot of the driver. It is illegal (I know in California it is, and I’m sure it is elsewhere) and more importantly it is just plain STUPID. It is easy enough to get distracted in a vehicle without having something right in front of you that is designed to suspend reality. If you want to have a media centric computer — install it in your freaking living room.

I want my Carputer to be utilitarian. Tell me information about my car using OBD-II. Give me location & directions using GPS. Of course it’ll play music. Hell, it can even handle my calls for me (hands free of course). That being said, I think that list might even be pushing it. I need to find a good way to make it all work well, and without requiring a lot of eye attention. At the average speed I drive, I travel ~120 feet every 3 seconds. What is 3 seconds you say? The time it takes to look down, read something EXTREMELY briefly and look back up. I don’t want to have to do that unless its absolutely necessary.

Anyways, I’ll report in with other details as I find them. And for those interested I’ve got a wiki page going with a general outline, miscellaneous thoughts, and some links.