Car Computer System Using Raspberry Pi


Car Computer System

If you feel jealous of your friend because he owns a nice and smooth computer system in his car and you are still using an old and crumbling model, here is an opportunity for you to build your own system, which is also cost effective and does not require any fancy tools to be used. The below lesson is on how to make a cheap computer system for car.

The below lesson will use Raspberry Pi to build your own computer system for your car and require very less knowledge of Raspberry Pi. Advance tools like laser cutter or advance 3D printers are avoided here and are not used as these tools are expensive despite the fact that these can be connected to the machine.

To build your car computer system, you would require a Raspberry Pi B model which runs on a fast and lightweight media centre distribution known as Xbian. Xbian is XBMC version specially designed for Raspberry Pi. The cheap, low cost resistive touch screen can be easily bought. The touch screen can carry out most of the required operations like play music, play games, watch videos, etc.

Raspberry Pi – Requirement:

  • Raspberry Pi B model
  • An LCD Touch screen with 7 inch screen 720×480 display from Tontec
  • SD card
  • Car stereo
  • USB drive
  • Wire of around 30 feet which can be fitted to the stereo
  • Tape
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Soldering iron
  • Hanger

Step 1:

Raspberry Pi – Assembling All The Above Things Together

Required Material

From my personal experience, below supplies works best:

I used Raspberry Pi Model B as the B+ model was not able to help the touchscreen work properly

7 inch LCD touchscreen from Tontec

Computer which can be establish SSH connection into Pi or USB Keyboard

Power supply for Pi, both DC and AC of 5 V 1 amp configuration.

Power supply for LCD which is 12V and 2 ampere DC configuration.

Step 2:

Raspberry Pi – Putting the screen

Display Screen

Connection Pins of LCD

connect ribbon cable with LCD screen & LCD control board

Connect button board of screen with control board

LCD control board connected with Raspberry Pi

Firstly, take the LCD screen and board as shown in the figure

Secondly, as can be seen in the picture, connect the ribbon cable from LCD screen to LCD control board. Make sure that the connection is made as shown in the picture. Unlock the black tabs before inserting the cable and lock them once it is inserted and keep both the control board and the screen face up.

Thirdly, Using the while cable, connect the button board of the screen with the control board.

Fourthly, LCD control board is connected with Raspberry Pi using an HDMI cable.

Finally, connect the DC power supply when ready to switch it on.

Step 3:

Raspberry Pi – Installation of touch panel to the LCD screen

Installation touch panel to LCD screen

Cover Screen with scotch tape

For my experiment I used scotch tape, however, using adhesive tape to attach the panel can also be done as most people would do, however, I had to wait longer and surprisingly, scotch tape worked well.

In order to attach the panel, firstly make sure that the panel is placed on top of the LCD screen and the control ribbon is on the top and corners are square.

Then, bind the panel along the edges of the LCD screen. Make sure that the taping is done only along the edges and avoid taping in front of the screen.

The tape should be rolled perfectly without any crumple to give it a nice finishing.

Ensure that the panel is well attached by giving more taping.

If the screen looks nice and properly fitted, the job is nearly completed.

Just, connect the ribbon cable with the touch panel with white, red, green, black cable. Make sure the ports of the control board are connected appropriately with the cable.

In the end, connect the white USB cable with the control board and Raspberry Pi.

Step 4:

Raspberry Pi – Initial Setup

This part of the set up can be difficult as this part differs from computer to computer based on the operating system like windows, Linux or Mac. Please go through the lessons on them provided by the Raspberry Team.

Please check the image of Xbian which is used here.

We would also require an SD card preferably 8GB, power supply of 5V and 1 Amp. Make sure that the power supply is compatible with Pi and an HDMI cable.

Once the screen is connected with help of HDMI cable and the 8GB SD card is inserted, slowly and gradually, the progress can eventually be seen on the screen with XBMC running in the background.

Step 5:

Raspberry Pi – Setting Up The Touch Screen

Setup Touch Screen

This step may look very difficult but trust me this is very simple and one should not feel it to be the job of 1337 hackers. The only thing one has to do is follow my instructions. First, let me tell you about SSH. SSH means to connect your Pi with your computer without the use of any cable through same network.

Hence, your Raspberry Pi should be connected through internet, if possible Ethernet.

Please follow the tutorial given on SSH to understand how SSH is done.

In case, one is not going with SSH, then one should use USB keyboard, connect it with Pi and access the terminals. This can done through exit option.

Enter the crednetials in Pi like Username as “Xbian” and Password as “raspberry”.

In the console window type the following line of code:

sudo stop xbmc

sudosh install.s

Once, done you just need to calibrate the touch screen by following the simple instructions.


sudo reboot

once completed with calibration.

The above described method is an automatic method which I got from another tutorial. However, if someone likes to go with manual method, he or she can go ahead with that. Automatic method however is easier and simpler to implement.

Step 6:

Raspberry Pi – Putting The Touch Screen In The Car

Old Car Sysytem

Empty Car system space

If you have reached this step, it means your touch screen is working. You might face some issues like Xbian update issues or some issue with Pi platform.

So, now we will put the touch panel in the car.

In order to mount the system into the car, it may vary from car to car as some car have like For Ranger have large space for OEM stereo while some would have smaller space. One should figure out a way to mount it.

In some of the cases like mine, the car radio need to be pulled out to properly mount the touch panel. It can be easily done with help of cloth hanger. First remove the two screws and then put the cloth hangers into holes and apply constant pressure to bend it and thus the radio can be pulled out easily

Step 7:

Raspberry Pi – Mounting the Radio somewhere in the car

Draw Car System

car front side
Car back Side

You might require soldering experience in order to put your radio somewhere in the car.

Glove box is the best area for most of the cars as it requires minimum harness, however, since my radio was quite big, I had to put it behind the rear seat of the car.

The car stereo is required as it serves the purpose of an amplifier and can be connected with the Pi through an auxiliary wire.

Firstly, cut the harness of the radio so that it can be removed and placed in another part of the car and harness should be extended.

Secondly, make sure you where you like to place it and measure twice or thrice before proceeding with soldering process. You might require good amount of wire to carry this out.

The extended harness and wiring should be cautiously be hidden through carpets, side panels, etc. to reach out the hiding spot of the stereo.

Step 8:

Raspberry Pi – Power Supply

Empty Car system space

Connection wires of Car system

Connector-Adaptor Cigrate lighter

Once, you are done with the above step, the second most difficult step is to supply power.

Get a power cable (DC) which can be connected with LCD board’s port. The power cable can either be achieved by cutting it from LCD power supply or using a separate one. With the help of wire stripper, strip the wire and join it through twisting with wires behind the cigarette lighter. Soldering at this point is recommended as it is a permanent solution, however, it is not essential.

To power the Pi, one can use car battery. Since, the LCD shuts down automatically when there are no signals, it is useful and prevent unnecessary drainage of battery.

Step 9:

Raspberry Pi – Setting up the screen

glue  Duct tape & glue
Fix Screen in Car
Screen in Car

Again this process will vary from car to car. However, for For Ranger, the effort was to make sure that the screen should not fall forward rather than backward. Here, one can use foam board and fix it behind bezel using glue.

To make sure that the screen is fixed completely, one can also mix the glue with duct tape and fix the screen with the foam board and check it is holds good.

For cleaning purpose, one can remove the complete bezel and clean the screen.

This is one of the cheapest methods. One can use proper 3D frames, however, this method can be carried out with things available with everyone at their disposal.

Connect the audio cable with auxiliary port of the stereo for audio transmission from Pi to speaker.

Step 10:

Raspberry Pi – Finished

Use touch Screen

Car Computer System

Once completed with the installation, there are few things which one should keep in mind:

Make sure that the Pi is shut down if one is not using it for long period of time. One should not disconnect or unplug the Pi when it is still on. Pi may go into sleep mode when one does not use it for long duration.

One can use splitter for the purpose of adding Bluetooth functionality, having USBs or gamepads.


About Author

Leave A Reply