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How-to build a Raspberry Pi touch screen car computer

How-to build a Raspberry Pi touch screen car computer

Tesla-like dashboard for your car

Integrated car computers are not only for expensive cars like the Tesla Model X nor is it only for complex car DIY projects that require you to have a degree in engineering. Not many people know how easy it is; by combining a few components it is possible to make it for any car.

In a Tesla everything is controlled from the large touch screen in the center console. From climate control, maps overview, cabin overheat protection and many more features.

Raspberry Pi Car Computer
This functionality is no longer only for Tesla drivers. This guide will show you how similar functionality can be built. Here are some of the cool features you get:

  • Touch screen interface
  • Fast 4G/LTE Internet connectivity
  • GPS tracking
  • Car diagnostics and integration through OBD-II port
  • Speaker or audio playback through Bluetooth device
  • Accelerometer readings
  • In car WiFi hotspot
  • Dashcam for evidence recording and surveillance etc.

Supplies

You do not need to have great knowledge about the Raspberry Pi and do not require any special tools as no modifications are made to your car.

Here is all you need:

  • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (get it here)
  • Raspberry Pi 7" Touchscreen Display (get it here)
  • SmartiPi Touch Case (get it here)
  • AutoPi Dongle with OBD-II Extension Cable (get it here)
  • AutoPi Raspberry Pi 3 Adapter Board (get it here)
  • 2x GoPro Adhesive Mounts (get it here)
  • Optional: Raspberry Pi Camera Module (get it here)
  • Optional: SmartiPi Touch Back Cover (get it here)

Goal of this guide

The goal of this step by step guide is to show you how a powerful car computer with a touch screen interface and a lot of functionality, can easily be built into your car. This guide will not go into details about the actual mounting in your specific car, as it may be slightly different from car to car.

The AutoPi platform gives us a lot of functionality out-of-the-box which makes the job much easier. Here are some of the highlights, which we can use in this project:

  • Power supply, car diagnostics and telemetry from the OBD-II port
  • 4G/LTE connection, GPS, accelerometer data and voice speaker
  • GPS for directions
  • An advanced dashboard with widgets (will be used in our car computer). See more here.

We want to add the following functionality to our dashboard:

  • Gauges to show Speed/RPM/Fuel
  • Current position on Map
  • Buttons to control AC temperature
  • Buttons to control radio volume
  • Cabin overheat protection

This should be the final result after assembly of our hardware:

Raspberry Pi Car Computer Collage

Here are the steps

1.

First we need to assemble everything in the SmartPi case. Here is a video guide how to get started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKVd5638T_8
Continue by mounting the AutoPi Raspberry Pi 3 adapter board on top of the Raspberry Pi 3. Next go ahead and mount the AutoPi Dongle board on top of the adapter board.

Raspberry Pi Car Computer Assembly
Raspberry Pi Car Computer

2.

Find a place in your car where you want the touch screen located. In our example we have mounted it on the center console using strong double-sided tape. You can also attach is using two GoPro adhesive mounts if that works better for your specific installation.

Tip: The screen could also be located on the steering column and used as a replacement or addition to the standard instrument gauges.

3.

Locate the OBD-II port of your car. It is typically found under the dashboard, but varies from model to model. Insert the OBD extension cable into the car and then connect it to the AutoPi Dongle board located on the back of the touch screen. If you have purchased a back cover to your SmartPi case you can install it now.

4.

Once connected the unit powers up and you will briefly see a small startup prompt on the screen. This is because the AutoPi IoT platform is optimized for fast boot and does not contain a graphical user interface. But this is easy to change. On your laptop or mobile phone, log into your AutoPi account on: https://my.autopi.io

5.

Go to the Add-ons section and find the “Local Touch Screen Dashboard” add-on. This will install a minimal X-windows server on your AutoPi Dongle; enabling display of graphical elements. Press the Install button.

6.

If your AutoPi Dongle is online, the installation will be executed immediately and you can follow the progress on the screen. If it is offline (or in sleep-mode), the installation will be queued and installed next time the AutoPi Dongle wakes up.

AutoPi Add-ons Overview
AutoPi Add-ons Overview

7.

After the install you will see the my.autopi.io system login screen. You will need to login the first time you use the system.

That’s it, you have now installed a touch screen computer to your car. All you need to do now is configure which widgets you want displayed on your dashboard.

AutoPi Dashboard Configuration
AutoPi Dashboard Configuration

Configuring new widgets is easy, and also adding new functionality is just as easy. Here is an example of implementing: Cabin Overheating Protection

Raspberry Pi Car Computer
Join the discussion below and tell us about your ideas.

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