Using a Raspberry Pi Zero as an IoT platform for your car

Using a Raspberry Pi Zero as an IoT platform for your car

Internet of Things is the new hot in tech

Internet of Things (IoT) is a popular buzzword in the tech/gadget community. The concept is that all the devices in our everyday life can be online/connected to the Internet 24/7, and thereby help to improve and make our lives more efficient. This includes our light bulbs, kitchen appliances, TVs, alarm and heating systems etc. All our "things" should be able to communicate with each other and be controlled from everywhere in order to achieve a more efficient and convenient world for us to live in.

Ideas for the connected car

Why should it not also include your car? Major tech companies have already started a built-up within this field, such as Tesla, Google and Uber. But where does that leave us, who cannot afford an expensive luxury car with the latest tech gadgets or a Tesla with an autopilot? 
Different attempts to solve this have been made earlier. Most attempts have been made using the OBD port of the car, and thus reading out telematics from the CAN bus of the car. Common for all these previous systems is that their platform was locked for modifications and alterations by the users.

This puzzled us and we decided to try to build our own system. We wanted a system that everybody could change, update and modify to their likings. We wanted a system that was always online and available. We did not want a system that was dependent on an internet connection through a mobile phone. We wanted a true IoT platform in the car.

    Our requirements were:
  • Online even when friends or family members use the car
  • Not dependent on a mobile phone
  • Open for programmable changes
  • But also configurable without programming experience
  • Extensible with external systems
  • Built on a well known hardware platform

An IoT platform built on the Raspberry Pi Zero

We quickly realized that the products from The Raspberry Foundation was very suitable for our project. We ended up deciding to use the Raspberry Pi Zero as the heart of our hardware dongle. The Raspberry Pi is a widely used, affordable and proven micro computer. It runs a high-level operation system and has a large backing community.

    We decided to build a HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) for the Raspberry Pi Zero, containing the needed IOs.
    We included:
  • 4G LTE modem
  • USB connectors
  • OBD connection to the car
  • Accelerometer
  • GPS + A-GPS
  • Bluetooth
  • Wireless LAN
  • Speaker
  • HDMI port
Two motherboards and two dongles showing how was the AutoPi product developed
The journey from concept to product of the AutoPi dongle
A more comprehensive description of the AutoPi Dongle can be seen HERE

A software platform built for IoT

We created a hardware platform that matched our initial requirements, but our vision was not complete. We wanted to connect our car and hardware dongle to an IoT software platform, from where we could easily manage and update the entire system. We wanted the platform to include a fully customizable dashboard, where each user could set up their own widgets.

Dashboard of AutoPi showing different aspects and functionalities
AutoPi Dashboard

We wanted it to be easy to install new features from a community driven platform:

Illustration of AutoPi add-ons in the library
AutoPi Add-ons Library

But we wanted to make sure that the user still had full possibility to interact, configure and program their Raspberry Pi and car directly from our IoT Platform:

Illustration of the AutoPi system with its own terminal and configuration
AutoPi Module Configuration and Termnial

    A more detailed overview of the AutoPi IoT platform can be seen HERE
    We ended up with an open and versatile system with some unique key features:
  • The AutoPi is not dependent on a connection to a mobile phone and is therefor online no matter who is driving the car
  • Advanced code modules can be programmed, uploaded and tested directly from the built-in editor.
  • Dashboard, triggers and add-ons are available for easy configuration and does not require programming experience.
  • With built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and USB it is easy to extend the system with other subsystems and extend the possibilities of the system.

Did you like the article? will soon be available on Kickstarter. Help us share this article or visit our social sites. is the first extensible IoT platform for your car, built on the Raspberry Pi.
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