Raspberry Pi car computer

Raspbian running in the dash of a Ford Focus

Last century I spent weeks researching car computers. I wanted mp3s, videos and access to Notepad on the road. I wanted my car to respect and love me, just like KITT loved David. I wanted it to shout, “Right on tiger!” when I achieved an optimum MPG and to flash up encouraging messages like, “Hello Clive, might I say that you are driving very handsomely today” on a heads-up display.

Sadly it was never to happen. The reality was that you needed a PC the size of a coypu in the boot; an industrial 12/240v inverter; a 15″ CRT monitor strapped to your dash; and hawseholes in your bulkheads. And after a week of constant rebooting halfway through Captain Sensible’s Happy Talk, your hard drive failed because of the vibration and your battery discharged for good.  (I gave up and bought a 32Mb Diamond Rio and a hi-tech cassette adapter instead.)

Back in the 21st century, Derek Knaggs at Flamelily I.T has made the thing of my dreams: a low cost, low maintenance, general purpose car computer. There are other Pi-based car computers about but we especially liked this one because it’s simple, cheap and it looks like a factory fit. Very smart.

A quick swap of SDs and Raspbmc meets all of your multimedia needs

The Raspberry Pi is stored in the centre console and all wires routed underneath. Audio is fed through the aux socket of the car’s radio so no additional hardware is needed for this. A wifi dongle provides internet connectivity on the move via a mobile phone hotspot.

Neatly tucked away in the console — note the wifi dongle for internet on the move.

Full details including a shopping list are on Derek’s blog. I’m off to make one.


AMG avatar

Awesome to see that the RPi is applied everywhere. This application particulary I find it very likely to be a good potential business.

Homer Hazel avatar

This is a splendid idea. I have seen Police car computers in the old days. I had a Police Sergeant in my class one semester and he showed me the setup. It was probably 20 years ago, but it was cool then. A PI would make it even better. Does anybody know of any type of sensor that I can connect to the car that reads the odometer? I’ve got a digital odometer, so I figure there must be somewhere I could tap into it. I have to record my mileage and having a button to push would be marvelous.

XBrav avatar

What you’re looking for is an OBDII interface to the Pi. There are a couple of Arduino projects that can be ported over (OBDuino comes to mind).

Tom avatar

there a OBDII bluetooth adapter dongles so you basically only need a R-Pi with bluetooth dongle to connect to the OBDII dongle. I’ve seen these priced for around 20$ and there are smartphone apps that connect to it too, so you have nice iPad/iPhone/Android apps already for this.

hunternet93 avatar

I just put one of these in my Taurus. Next step is to install a Pi and a phone mount.

evandrofisico avatar

You can try using an OBD II adapter. There are some with USB, serial (RS232) and bluetooth conectivity.
I use a ELM237 bluetooth adapter, which is very cheap to buy from the likes of dealextreme and works with a modified version of pyOBD2.

tmxcd avatar

evandrofisico, do you have a set up like this already running?

David avatar
Greg Macaree avatar

A bit of work with the gpio and you can get ‘Kitt’ style LEDs in the front grille too! Do a google for USB obdii connections and that will sort your link to the car data bus..

RMW5 avatar

Another great project. I look forward to the first RPi SatNav, unless I missed it already.

Derek avatar

I also looked into this and there is a great post by Peter Cock here http://astrobeano.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/navit-gps-on-raspberry-pi.html
Thinking of giving it a go…

kyle avatar

The Diamond Rio brings back some memory’s, £170.00 I paid for my 32gb. It amazed my friends that I could get 40 songs on a music player with no moving parts and powered from 1 x AA battery.Lol

liz avatar

First MP3 player I ever saw in the flesh! A friend who was a pathological early adopter bought the first one that was widely available. Like Clive’s, it had only 32Mb onboard memory, so you could play about thirty minutes of music on it – so it was worse for storage than a cassette tape in a Walkman. (Although it also had a slot for more – but do you remember how expensive memory was in 1998?)

It was bigger than a Raspberry Pi.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_PMP300 for more!

AndrewS avatar

Hmmm, that must have been about the time I bought a portable MiniDisc player/recorder. Good technology at the time, but now defunct.

Ken avatar

Well before 1998, I remember spending $400 on 4mb of memory.
$100 a mb. Yeah I remember how expensive memory was.

jesse avatar

“, just like KITT loved David ”
david was the actor, in the series it was micheal, duh:p

clive avatar

No — David was the name of a pickup truck from the wrong side of the tracks. He was mute and his rims were rusty. It was never going to work.

SN avatar

almost a year to the day since I had my first pi running in my car on my sat nav screen…
though to be fair my pi was not permanently fitted in to the dash…

John avatar

This is a really interesting way to modify RPi into your car. I can only hope that soon RPi, or things like it, will be commonplace in cars, since I don’t have the skills to put it in my car myself. Nevertheless, this is a really useful thing that I would love to have in my car, especially if it has the potential for navigation.

WiSatmna avatar

I’ve been having some fun with my car computer, I’m just using the PI for entertainment. I’m sure it could be set up to do everything else.

a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_eA9QnTtI0″

Tushar avatar

Please read my video, we get very good response from youtube user.

Raspberry pi admin, please let me now how can i publish in your website.


Nomo avatar

Your Post inspired me so the other day I had a chance to get my hands on a Raspberry Pi. With the option of running Python and using a great app called rPlay which allows you to use your Raspberry Pi as an apple TV. So here was the idea of ordering the iHUD and connecting the Raspberry Pi to it so I can use any Application from my iPhone and its displayed to the windshield wirelessly. Which means I was able to use Siri to search over voice control in Maps enter the location and start the navigator and everything was displayed on my windshield. You don’t need to take your eyes off the road anymore. This Head-up-dispaly and Raspberry Pi combination is the cheapest iHUD on the market. You can get more information on the iHUD at nomotravel.com

Massimo avatar

Hi clive,
Take a look to this project. Sounds really good.


jon bo avatar

What video settings did you use? I have the same monitor, and its basically illegible.

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