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BMW 325ti -01 CarPC

No of visitors (from 9 August 2009): 

       Updated 18 December 2011

mailto: Bengt-Olof Swing

Screen shoot of OOFE, my frontend application written in C#. 

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CarPC functionality 
Once you get familiar with the idée of a car pc you get stuck with it. But I remember that I myself reacted with surprise when I first heard of it and thought "nutcase". And the first question everyone asks is "why?".
Best answer is 
- Do you know what www.spotify.se is? 
- yes, its a brand new site where you get 90% of all music at 10€ a month
- I've just installed it in my car
- Aaaa....

The CarPC hobby

BMW BordMonitor and IBus
BMW has its own entertainment system and the presentation and operation unit is the Bordmonitor found in dash. I wanted the installation to look OEM so I bought me one on eBay. 

How I want to integrate the PC with the car
The biggest differences between installations is that everyone has its own opinion about what functionality that is important and how to operate it. 
- Touch screen? Touch screen is a very intuitive way of operating the system but will have an impact on picture quality. This is the first and most important decision to make, and I opted 'no'.
- Features? Navigation, telephone, TV, radio etc.
- Remote control or mouse? Mini keyboard? On screen-keyboard (OSK) or key input via cell phone? Voice control? Steering wheel buttons? Especially if there is no touch screen you have to think this thru properly.
- Integration with existing OEM features? If already a TV or navigation system installed you might want to keep that and just add-on the extra niceties. How much are you prepared to pay and how much time are you prepared to waste/spend/enjoy?
- Maintenance. Make sure the system us maintainable. Even if screen is dead. I will use a laptop connected to ethernet and/or USB.

I strongly recommend that you think through what you want and get as much as possible working on your desk before installing it in the car. Once that is done, take some time off work and finish the installation in one go. Try to get as much running as possible. You will still have enough knirks in the system.

I also recommend to choose as many options as possible, or at least prepare for it so that you do not have to rewire anything. You will also find when demoing the system trying to impress someone (something I would never do myself), you do not want to hear - "ok, and what else can it do?" Get the TV for god sake:-)

Third advice is to search mp3car for any advice on what parts to buy. You will save a lot by buying the right stuff first time. There is no such thing as walking into your computer shop of choice and say "I want a Bluetooth dongle, please".

 

Why car PC?

My car pc will provide functionality presented under software. But in short I will have:

Audio (mp3 on HDD, CD's, FM/DAB Radio, spotify, iTunes, iPhone, telephone via USB and/or BT)

Navigation 

TV and DVD

 

Telephone  

Tracking via internet connection

Tyre Pressure Measuring System

Rearview Camera

 

But there is really no limit. Controlling the car air-condition. Alarm.... 

The CarPC hobby

There is a lot of people who have started by building a PC for their car from scrap they got for free, and then it grow bigger than themselves. Have a look at http://www.mp3car.com

They find a particular problem area and starts working on it, designing sw skins and hardware. They end up being telephone experts, GPS experts or experts in Tracking, tyre pressure monitoring, OBDII, FM RDS, Antenna issues, tweaking winXP or other operating systems, USB, LCD's etc. There is a field for everyone. Enjoy!

Bordmonitor, or On-Board Monitor

The goal of this project is to install a PC in the car that uses the Bordmonitor screen and its buttons.

From this...  into....     

Note that the clima is moved down.

It has to be invisible

I have done some things prior to this regarding audio. I modified the business MD player for low level output. The reason why I did that rather than buying an aftermarket product was that I do not want it to show from outside that this is something more than a standard system. 

That's the reason why I bought a Bordmonitor on eBay for this project rather than buying an off-the-shelf TFT even if that would have been much easier and given me same functionality for less money.

I also wanted to get the BMW look and feel on buttons. No one will ever be able to tell this from a (boring) standard BMW NAV DSP system.  

It has to be forward compatible

I've got a BMW and they sell expensive systems with this purpose, but the only thing that is certain in this world is that there will always be better cellular phones, navigation software, etc. The only way to be forward compatible is to use a PC.

How I want to integrate the PC with the car.

Software,
Buttons,
Telephone Input,
Other inputs,
Network,
Screen,
DVD,
Audio,
Connections at dash,
Harness

 

Software        

Also read software

I have made my own front end, as I did not find one that fitted my needs.

  

Button messages on IBus

Also read IBus

In my BMW the different modules communicate on IBus. On that bus button press messages can be read for instance. 

The frontend I've made also includes sending and receiving functionality on IBus messages.

Telephone input

Also read telephone

During the years I have been working on this I have had a number of different cellular phones. This is a perfect example on
why not to buy the carphone with the car. Currently I have an iPhone that can be connected via USB cable.
Hopefully I will be able to use all features of that phone. Not just calling with it with car mic and speakers, but also as text
input, music, ...

It would also be great if other phones could be accessed via BT to play songs etc.

Other inputs

My intention is that no keyboard nor mouse has to be installed. No touch screen even if gesture etc is handy. Bordmonitor and steering wheel buttons (and telephone keypad) should be enough to operate the system. 

For special tasks I have a small BT keyboard, and future possibility of using the iPhone on screen keyboard. Maybe special app.

Also read voice control

When that is not enough, or when it is easier, voice control can be activated with the press of the "talking man" button on the steering wheel. Windows is not that mature in this area yet...

Network

Also read network

Includes Internet access. When that is not enough a lap top can be connected and control the PC with VNC or remote desktop.

Screen

Also read high-resolution LCD

The original screen of the Bordmonitor is replaced by a VGA compatible LCD with 800x480 resolution rather than the original 400x240. 

DVD

Also read replace CD.

The Bordmonitor CD is replaced with a USB DVD.

Audio

Also read Audio

I have installed the BMW microphone placed in the ceiling. Simple electronics had to be added. The PC will interface that mic as well as radio line-in and the speaker system.

I have also installed an FM/Dab radio. Yet to find out if the inbuilt antenna will provide good Dab signal...

One advantage that  appeals to me is that with a pc you can forever forget about moving ground points to get rid of wining! No ground loops.

Connections at dash

Also read installation

Here is music ripped, laptop with USB network connected, etc.

Harness

Also read installation

There will be a harness going from the boot to the dash. It will contain the following leads

  1. High level speaker cables

  2. USB for DVD etc

  3. VGA Video cable 

  4. Microphone cable

  5. Radio audio cable with ground loop isolation

  6. AV cable (rear view camera to screen)