It’s not unusual to find a smartphone hooked up to a car, but in the vast majority of cases this is only done to make it easy to make or answer calls, use a navigation app, or play music.
There are many other ways that you can use Android in your car, however, from providing entertainment to your passengers to monitoring your vehicle’s performance.
Mount Your Android Device
If you’re planning to make Android a permanent addition to your car (and several motor manufacturers are, such as Audi, Honda and Hyundai), the most important thing you can do is mount it correctly.
To droid your ride with an Android smartphone, all you’ll need is a suitable dashboard or windshield mount tailored to your particular device. When it comes to tablets, however, things are a little trickier.
One popular option is to connect your tablet to an adjustable stand that connects to the in-car charging port; however, these can prove unreliable while in transit. Dashboard or window mounts are also an option, but can take up too much space. They also draw attention to your tablet, potentially making your vehicle a target for thieves.
Perhaps the best option for an Android tablet to be mounted in your car is to fit it directly into the facia, perhaps replacing your in-car audio system.
Setup Your Android Carputer
If you’re opting to install a tablet in your car as a permanent (but removable) new feature, there are several things that you will need to do, such as sort out a power source and Internet connection. One huge benefit of a connected carputer is that you can stay in touch with events on the road, such as traffic jams and accidents, use satellite navigation, etc., so having a mobile Internet connection is a good idea (although by no means mandatory).
You’ll find many guides online explaining how to setup an Android tablet carputer. Problems can occur if you’re unprepared, so we would recommend that you spend time researching how to setup your tablet correctly. The following video concerning a Nexus 7 car install is a good illustration of the various pitfalls and problems you might face.
Choosing the right apps for your carputer is important. Although you might use a custom ROM for the interface, having a single app to provide single one-touch access to in-car services is a much simpler option. Car Home Ultra is a good option here, although your Android device may already have a suitable app pre-installed, such as HTC’s Car Mode.
In-Car Entertainment For Your Passengers
Depending on the number of passengers, you might also like to use your Android carputer as the hub of a car-wide entertainment system, using an app like AllCast to send the video to the handheld device of a passenger. Naturally, you won’t be able to use the system to watch videos yourself, as such a distraction would be dangerous while driving. As such, you might encourage your passengers to use headphones.
OBDII is an on-board diagnostics system found in almost all cars manufactured after 1996, and it can be used to display information on an Android carputer using an inexpensive USB or Bluetooth device.
With this device connected to your Android carputer you can use an app such as Caro0 Pro (shown above) or Torque Pro to monitor car performance and diagnose issues.
The benefits of this approach speak for themselves — up-to-the-minute monitoring of your car’s status that can help you spot any faults before they develop into problems and a possible breakdown.
You Don’t Need A New Car!
As mentioned earlier, major car manufacturers are beginning to introduce Android as an in-car entertainment management system with other carputer functions built in. Apple is also reported to be providing a new version of iOS specifically for cars.
Along with wearable technology such as Google Glass and smartwatches, official carputers are expected to be a big new market in the coming months and years. The truth is, however, that you don’t need to spend thousands on a new car to take advantage of this — the hardware, apps, and peripheral devices already exist.
Are you using Android as a carputer, or have plans to do so? Share your thoughts in the comments box!