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2006 Tacoma Carputer

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  • 2006 Tacoma Carputer

    My (first) carputer:

    Preface: I did the initial install in Oct 2006. After 8 months of use the pros/cons of the build are pretty clear. I’ve included some comments on the various components at the end of this post based on that experience. But before going any further I should say a thing or two about the location of the monitor. With this location the screen is almost unusable by the driver while driving. As I anticipated before doing the install, it is unsafe at any speed except backwards where it is actually not a bad location to use. It is tethered and can be picked up by the navigator if needed. Since the music is controlled by the OEM head unit and my wife is a damn good navigator with paper maps, the screen sees very little use unless we out wheeling on trails in the Sierra Nevada. Under those circumstances TOPO maps with GPS really is useful in augmenting our paper maps and fortunately the forest canopy generally eliminates the glare.

    Design philosophy: The approach we took with the carputer was to work in phases: 1st build an entry level system leveraging existing hardware and software, 2nd add advanced functionality possibly requiring the replacement of some phase one components. This may not have been the most cost effective approach in the long run, but it has the advantage of getting a proof of concept carputer working, which could then justify additional expenses (in other words, the “we” in the sentence above means “me” with my wife saying “why do you want to do this?” over and over and over). Also as with any technology, by the time I get to phase two, the components will be twice as good and half as expensive. Lastly, I work on computers all day long, I really don’t want to fuss with a computer when I’m out having fun, I just want it to transparently work for me in the background. No need for a fancy front end; just play music and tell the navigator where we are and where we were. (My wife’s resistance to use the new system approached open hostility until the value of having the GPS proved itself over and over. And it is nice having 100+ hours of music for long off road trips).

    Here is a diagram of the design:

    Here’s the touch screen. It is fitted with a cover and notepad to protect (and obscure) the screen. If I ever get around to phase 2, I’ll put the motherboard under the display, there’s plenty of room. A transflective display would be a big improvement too.

    This is what the display looks like with the cover removed. I can’t say I’m thrilled with the fabrication but it was done in about an hour.

    This angle shows the location of the switch console (behind the gear shifter). The left switch controls the battery isolator and the right swich controls carputer power. The carputer switch has three positions. The top position powers the carputer via a relay to the Igntion. This causes everything to power when the key is turned. The bottom position provides power to the carpure all the time. The middle position turns everything off for maintenance. The unused switch locations will be used for aux lights and winch controls to be added latter. The console has jacks for the DB and an Aux audio port for MP3 player as well as indicator lights for carputer power and battery isolator.

    This is the laptop tucked under the drive seat:

    This photo shows the center console removed. The 12v and 5V power supplies are in front of the gear shifter. The hard drive and usb hub are under the power supplies. I wish I had some better photos - in this one the cables are not tucked in place yet but it gives some idea of the location of the components. When the center console is in place you can just reach the screw terminals of the power supplies though the cup holder space with a screwdriver. Otherwise they are completly hidden. There is plenty of room for a motherboard in the cup holder location: directly under the Liliput monitor.

    The Car2PC and GPS are stuck with Velcro to the underside of the dash behind the OEM head unit. This photo shows the Car2PC unit hanging down right before it was fastend.

    Phase one: Basic carputer: leveraging existing hardware and software.

    Feature Spec: Real time weather and road conditions
    Communications: Internet, e-mail, IM.
    Navigation: GPS with street and topographic maps
    Entertainment: AM/ FM Radio, music (wav, mp3)
    Rear view camera
    Trip logging
    Charge and play IPOD
    Charge cell phone (and use as modem)

    Design Spec:
    Components I already had:
    Toyota Tacoma TRD, 4x4, extended cab, V6, towing package, ARE camper shell, OEM head unit,
    Dell Latitude D600
    Processor 2.00GHz L2 2048
    RAM 1.5GB
    Storage 60GB 7200rpm
    Display Adapters MOBILITY RADEON 9000 32Mb
    Sound Devices SigmaTel C-Major Audio
    Network Adapters
    Broadcom 570x Gigabit Integrated Intell
    Pro/Wireless 220BG
    Dell Latitude D/Port Advanced Port Replicator PR01X
    3.5mm audio
    4 USB ports
    LG VX8100 Cell phone
    Apple IPOD Nano
    Motorola Talkabout SX7100 two way radios.
    90 DC/DC car, airplane power adaptor for laptop
    120GB USB Hard drive.
    2 4 port USB hubs
    2 36” USB cables
    USB 2.0 to Cell phone cable
    USB sound canceling microphone (I later ripped this out because is was useless)
    Odyssey PC925MJ deep cycle battery My write up for the dual battery set up is available here:

    Windows XP Service Pack2
    National Geographic’s Topo software.

    Components I needed to buy
    8.4” touch screen LCD display
    12V DC/DC regulator
    5V DC/DC regulator
    Car2PC adaptor (to connect carputer to head unit)
    Rear view camera
    12 Gauge wire, split conduit, terminal connectors etc.
    Marine gage DBDT lighted switch.
    3.5mm Y cable
    Rubber automotive weather stripping for mounting the display (yep, that’s $15 and about an hour of fabrication)

    A few comments on components:
    Dell Laptop: This greatly simplified the hardest part of the project. Power management, DVD, WiFi, Bluetooth, audio, are all integrated components of the laptop.
    • Can be undocked and used to watch movies in the truck bed.
    • Only really useful for road trips

    Entertainment System: OEM Head Unit / Car2PC: works reasonably well but is not flawless.
    • No need to fuss with the carputer to change music
    • It remembers the last song you played when you shut off the computer (really nice if you have particularly large play list)
    • On rare occasion Windows Media Player does not start the plug in.
    • Because it is limited to 6 play lists, you have to make your play lists really big, really good, or shuffle them around when you get tired of the same 6 play lists.
    • Does not talk to Ipod (there are separate products that do, but I don’t know of any that will talk to either PC or Ipod).

    Communications: WiFi is used when the car is in the garage to update content and remotely manage the computer using remote desktop. When on the road, the laptop to uses the cell phone as a modem over Bluetooth. On a few occasions the ability to get traffic reports has been a real time saver. I had hoped to get FMRS radios and CB radio integrated but that will have to wait for phase 2.

    Map software: National Geographic’s Topo is a great tool for planning backpack and off-road trips.
    • It has GPS functionality that allows you to track your position and unlike other mapping programs does not care if there are streets at all!

    • Topo is not car friendly. It is only useful in the hands of a navigator.

    Because of these limitations I’m shopping for another map program. I bought Streets & Trips 2007, but was initially not too impressed. After 9 months, I’ve gotten used to it.

    Touch screen Display: Lilliput 8.4” display mounted on the center console where the cup holders were located.
    • Screen is bright enough except for when there is direct sunlight on the screen
    • Remembers what video mode it was in when you shut it down (I leave mine in backup camera mode unless I’m on a road trip and have the laptop in the docking station).
    • I have not been able to get it to function in portrait mode in its native resolution of 480000 pixels (600x800). I can do portrait mode 768x1024 mode but then the display is not as crisp as in 800x600. This was a major annoyance but I’ve settled for a shortcut that flips the display 180 degrees for the navigator.
    • With this location the screen is almost unusable by the driver while driving. I quickly learned that it is unsafe at any speed except backwards where it is actually not a bad location to use. (Please forgive me for saying this twice)
    • The angle of reflection from the driver or passenger seat is right at the front windshield. This partially, obscures about a third of the display but that turns out not to be a problem because when you go to touch the display your hand blocks the reflection. I tested this location using a mirror and notepad so I knew what I was getting I’ll switch to a transflective display if the prices ever become reasonable.

    Power: Odyssey PC 925 with three separate power supplies.
    • The tank battery allows me to do my configuration work via remote desktop over WiFi from the comfort of my office rather than sitting in the driver seat of the car .
    • The Hellroaring battery isolator has a controls that allow me to crank the engine using the carputer battery if the OEM battery is dead.
    • The plugs to and from Duracell adaptor for the laptop become unplugged really easily. Fortunately it came with a long Velcro strap that can be looped around the plugs to keep it all together.

    Acknowledgements: This simple set up would not have been possible without the almost limitless wealth of information provided by the members of this forum. Thank you everyone for your help. It has been an education!

  • #2
    Well, Iíve been running with this set up for about a year now. I thought I should do an update.
    1) Wife loves the navigation and uses it like an extension of paper maps. Acts like the system was always there Ė didnít give me any credit for the set up at all.
    2) Internet access works well, when we need to check traffic or something. This has saved us from some awful traffic.
    3) Ms streets and trips works pretty well. Not quite as good as NG Topo but it has less clutter and covers 99.9% of trails weíve run. When we've needed the extra detail, weíve been able to switch to Topo. For example to find side trails, which is when it counts.
    4) The car2pc unit is limited by the 6 play list feature but works good, otherwise Ė the lack of a good touch screen for music has hurt. Just need something with big buttons. Somebody make a skin please!!
    5) The position of the touch screen turned out to be less of an issue than first reported.
    a. Glare is not so bad as to render useless, only slightly annoying, but never unreadable.
    b. I donít need maps at highway speeds and on trails, it has not been a big deal to ust fu@%!ng stop since we were at a crawl anyway.
    c. It rocks in reverse.
    Iíve been planning nano-itx upgrade and transflective display, but the current setup works so well that itís been less of a priority than other stuff.

    Again, thanks to all for the help getting this set up working.


    • #3
      I'm really interested in this. I have a 2007 Tacoma that I'm planning on adding a computer to. Keep us informed of any upgrades you make.


      • #4
        Nice to see someone else with a tacoma on here


        • #5
          good to see toyota truck guys!

          dunno if im allowed to mention other forums in here, but since it doesnt compete with mp3car, i dont see why not. for toyota truck stuff. great community (mostly offroad stuff, but even more general tech. its where i spend all of my free time these days)

          install looks good, but i agree, it is a useless place for a screen. there were a couple of people in the area that had 4th gen 4runners and 2nd gen tacomas that did indash moulded screens, they looked great. id suggest searching around here for them.
          1998 Toyota 4Runner SR5 V6 4x4 in Evergreen Pearl Metallic, Lifted, Locked, and Armored. CarPc in custom console with molded touchscreen.
          Photobucket is being updated, if a picture i posted no longer works, please PM me.


          • #6
            Originally posted by xmadcowx View Post
            Nice to see someone else with a tacoma on here
            Is this you?


            • #7
              Originally posted by lsocoee View Post
              Sure is.


              • #8
                Originally posted by xmadcowx View Post
                Sure is.
                that looks great. I hope mine looks half as good as that. Have you seen any other Tacoputer installs?


                • #9
                  There was someone on that posted a few months with his setup, I believe. He was in an 01-04 model however. Don't remember any specifics. Other than that, I have yet to see anyone else put one in the truck.


                  • #10
                    Hi Guys stumbled on this thread. My rig is a Toyota Dual cab ute, a Tacoma but a Hilux wth the 3 litre Turbo Diesel engine. My Car PC buildup is here:

                    And a bit about my truck buildup overall here:
                    2007 Toyota Hilux with a CarPC..

                    OziExplorer GPS Embedded in RR:


                    • #11
                      How is your latitude runing at 2GHz?

                      Carpc plan=========90% -Never going to be finished!
                      Carpc parts==5% -Computer died
                      Carpc install==5% -Need to install computer
                      Carpc worklog-0% -Need to start that soon


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by da_glu View Post
                        How is your latitude runing at 2GHz?

                        So far I've not had any problems with performance or reliability with this system. CPU speed has never been a problem since the demands on this system are pretty minimal. I still use this laptop for day-to-day computing and it works fine.

                        It has worked so well that I have never gotten arround to doing the verison 2.0 build...