I have been looking into the whole GPS Guidance systems, rear view camera options, in car entertainment options and have come up a computer in the SMB solution. I am in the process of installing the system and thought I would start documenting some of features.
First of all, my original choice was to just use my lap top as driving engine for the system, for various reasons I decided to make the computer pretty much a permanent install and decided on a Aopen MP965 mini pc for the computer.
In any case the critical input for any Carputer is the Touch Screen Monitor for this I chose a Xenarc 700TSV. This and the front end software you choose to use, will enable you control the operations of the computer without being a driving hazard.
As I said the front end software is a big part of the system. There are getting to a lot choices out there ranging from free to extremely costly. I chose Streetdeck http://www.streetdeck.com/
. It comes with the following features:
Internet Enhanced Navigation
Internet Enhanced Entertainment
Gesture, Touch, and Voice Control
Traffic (Coming Soon)
Multiple Monitor Support
Satellite Radio Support
Automotive E-mail (Coming Soon)
Bluetooth Phone Support (???)
One of the nice features of these software front ends, is the fact that they let you change the look of the screen and a lot of the display information. This is a Skin that I have made some changes to ( I used a posted Skin to start my changes on)
As you can see each of the tabs above will take you to some feature in the software. The Miles per hour, Altitude and Direction are all items that it gets from the GPS input. Besides the Navigation, two heavily used items are the Music control, and XM radio control. For the music it is like having a big MP3 player on board, all the features you have on your home computer are pretty much there except you have touchscreen, and voice control ( I have not tried this yet, most words I have used when talking to a computer range in the 4 letter variety. Note the green font was my choice, since all of the dash controls are green in color I was trying keep some consistency. The beauty is that you change it to what you like.
The navigation system uses Microsoft MapPoint 2006. There are other Front Ends that use different navigational software, See some of the screen shots, The Hybrid view has virtual earth overlaid on top of the map. (You must have internet connection to download that data on the fly or have it cached already on your computer)
One other feature the software has is video control; since I have a TV in the back with computer inputs I can use that as a secondary monitor. I can be using the navigation upfront and playing a movie to the back monitor.
I have also installed a second sound card to the system using a USB device from TurtleBeach., the front end software allows me to dedicate all sound for the Front Touchscreen to a specified sound card.
Many times the kids use headphones to watch movies on TV while were driving, thus allowing the driver to remain sane. I also needed to find a USB Hub that could be powered off 12 volts. For this I chose this unit from USBGear, it has 4 ports and takes 7 to 24 volts as a power input. A lot of the devices that can be hooked up are going to be done by USB such as GPS antenna, XM controller, ODBII interface.
It took 15ft USB cable to make it from compute to the HUB.I found a nice location to mount some of this behind the passenger side dash
Since I also wanted to keep the stock radio CD setup I use a USA-Spec device that hooks up to the stock radio and give me to audio inputs with the external CD changer controls. I use one for the PC audio and one for the XM audio. Part of my goal was to keep my normal entertainment features and not replace everything.
Of course powering this all becomes the next issue, the MP695 has a power brick that puts out 19 volts, probably similar to a lot of Laptops. Since I did not want to have to plug into AC and have my inerter running for a long list of issues, I chose to use a DC to DC converter. Again the Carputer industry pretty much has a lot of options here. I chose a Carnetix P2140 here for my install. First it has two output voltages, the main one controls PC with 18.5 volts and the secondary 12 volt output controls my touchscreen monitor, USB hub, XM module.
This unit can be turned on by wiring into the van ACC voltage; they sell a interface to go with the Aopen miniPC to control the power.
This is essentially letting you hook up to the power button. The P2140 turns on power, and then closes the power button on the PC; you can the program a delay as to when you want the secondary voltage to come up. This unit also can monitor the voltages with a USB controlled software package
Another feature of this unit is to shut down if its input voltage becomes lower then a specified set point. I might add that if you have needs for powering devices that you are currently using 110 power bricks to use one of these could be an option.
A big part of the install was making cables; the Carnetix P2140 uses Standard Molex minifit connectors for input and output connections. They give you input and output connectors that you can spice your wires to. Since I have access to some of the crimp tools I just pulled their wires and put connectors on my own wire saving the splice. For my auxiliary power connector on the other end I chose to use standard hard drive power connectors. I wired up 12 volts, and have an unused wire for a possible 5 volt addition.
I will say that I do have an Elmscan ODBII USB connection hooked up. I have not found the Front End Software to provide a good way of displaying that data, they try to display graphs and such, I also have a ScanGuage so I already have access to most of the data I need.
I am now looking for a rearview camera to install and hookup to the monitor as it also has video inputs
I believe the most challenging part of the install was to run the cables from cabinet to upfront. I did not take as many pictures that I wanted because it was either to cold or to wet. But I will follow up with more data in a later post. I believe I have rambled enough for now