Car PC

I’ve kinda been looking at the computer market recently, So I decided to goto Fry’s today, just to look around. While there I saw on the display of motherboards, some tiny Mini-ITX systems. They were all a bit underpowered, but had nearly everything integrated on the motherboard; some were even fanless. At first I thought they were rather quaint, possibly for a grandmother’s internet pc. But then I realized, that due to their small size, they’d be perfect platforms for an in-car pc.

Looking online I found I was right! Of all the spots that talked about car-pc mods, the best was the Coolest Car in the World. He detailed nearly complete construction, and lists all the software he uses.

Software is probably the most important issue regarding a CarPC. I’d want to at least

  1. Voice Command
  2. I’d want it to respond to “Computer” ala Star Trek, or “Kitt” ala Night Rider. But mostly I should be able to work the computer without using my hands, because it’s much less distracting that way.

  3. GPS Navigation
  4. We should be able to do all the stuff that current GPS units do. Street navigation, auto route change based on current position, search for nearby gas/food stations, all voice-controlled of course.

  5. MP3 playing
  6. What’s the point in having a Hard Drive in your car, if you don’t load it full up with music? Should support shuffle, mood-based selection, specific song/artist collection, and tell you what’s currently playing if asked through the voice-control.

  7. Video playing
  8. I may not want this, but it might be nice anyway.

  9. Note taking
  10. The car should remind you when it next needs service, what chores you planned to do today, and all that jazz.

  11. WiFi plotting
  12. aka WarDriving. Plot wireless access points via GPS.

  13. Talk to other cars
  14. It’s about time someone create a protocol whereby the cars on the road can talk to each other. This way they can advise drivers of which lane is best (coordinated routing, if the GPS nav knows where you’re headed), and distribute network/internet service. Possibly we’d want collision control via radar/laser ranging as well.

Next to that is the hardware. I’d want an unobtrusive display system, and don’t absolutely need access to the embedded engine computer. Though it might be nice for the pc to know about gas level, engine temp, and all that, even if only to give you an audible warning. Also, we want to avoid a keyboard of any kind because of the distraction it would cause. Touch-screens might be forgivable. HUD would be sweet.

Looking at this further, stealing hardware from the VIA Openbook would probably be the cheapest way to go (once they come out). Mount the screen on the visor, and setup the software. Otherwise the VoomPC would be a nice way to go. Linux CarPC software is lacking a coalescence right now. I almost hate to say it (because there are so many already), but we really need another distro to fit this rather niche market.