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  • The CarPC - How Far Have We Come?

    Thinking about it today, the car pc really has not come very far in terms of practicality and/or usefulness. It still is not a good solution for most people and it still requires lots of technical knowledge in both hardware and software to implement correctly. Below is a listing of what was originally set out from the beginning of the car pc revolution and what really happened...

    Play digital content
    Playing of digital music/content was always the #1 reason for having a car pc back before MP3 players and MP3 capable headunits became mainstream. Early frontends like Media Engine and Frodo Player did this beautifully and simply. At this point, this is a non-issue except for the fact that newer front-ends seem to overlook this feature and their media players are cumbersome, difficult to search by artist/song/album and can be slow to search your hard drive. Honestly, we might have taken steps backward with this feature.

    GPS Navigation
    GPS navigation was a major reason for having a car pc as well. Before just a few years ago, cheap GPS navigation devices didnt exist and it was almost cheaper to build a car pc to offer the same technical abilities as then current hardware offerings. Now with sub $100 navigation devices that do handsfree bluetooth with cell phones, offer connection to the internet for updating of maps and POIs, and cell phones with almost unlimited potential, the car pc has fell way behind in features and capabilities in this area. Software for PCs in this area have slowed down development and Linux has never had a really good software product ever.

    Increased Safety
    Many early hobbyist thought that adding a car pc would increase vehicle safety. With simple interfaces such as large touchscreen buttons, voice control, and easy to use joysticks, it should increase safety behind the wheel. First hand experience, that is not the case. Skin developers are going for ultra shiny looks that can be difficult to use even when parked, yet alone driving. Voice control still is not perfected and other means of controlling the car pc still have not surfaced. Today's car pcs do not offer anything in the way of offering more safety to the driver or passengers. We have gone leaps and bounds backwards since the onset in this area.

    Car Control
    With a car pc, we should be able to control the car using hardware interfaces. Sure we have made some steps with fusion brain and related products, but using them still required servos, relays, and other external hardware. Also against is that today's cars are infinitely more complex in terms of wiring than 10-15 years ago. Everything is hooked up the the car's multiple computer cores with almost no way to hack or communicate. The car companies have locked down the protocols and will not release how they work. I would say working on a newer car is harder than old cars based on this. While we have not gone backware in this area, the car manufacturers have made the rift even deeper due to their "innovations".

    Car Automation
    Same as above, having the car turn on itself in the morning automatically or doing X at Y time falls in the same category. While we have more info and hardware on how to do it, newer cars just make it that much harder.

    So while we have made great progress towards front-ends that use plugins and are extensible and cheap car pc hardware that anyone can afford and install, the original goals we wanted to reach are still not met. New developers have gone on different tangents and created solutions to problems that didnt exist or affected a small subset of people. Hardware exists, but isnt expandable or doesnt fit everyone's needs. Car pcs are more a distraction than ever before.

    We are farther away then ever before and I do not think we will ever bridge the gap as a hobbyist community. It just may require the intervention of the car companies or some other large corporation to complete the gap and bring car pcs to the masses. When that happens, we have failed, since we were never able to do it alone.

  • #2
    Originally posted by ioi8 View Post
    We are farther away then ever before and I do not think we will ever bridge the gap as a hobbyist community. It just may require the intervention of the car companies or some other large corporation to complete the gap and bring car pcs to the masses. When that happens, we have failed, since we were never able to do it alone.
    The last 3 you mention I think always required the car companies to step to the plate as it were, and if we can get them to do that I think it would be the opposite, as in we'd have won, rather than failed.
    2008 Ford Mustang GT/CS CARPC(99%)
    Software: Ride/Road-Runner, Digital FX skin 5.x, iGuidance 2011, GPSgate on Win7 64bit

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    • #3
      I agree. When the CarPC first started off, the primary goal was to play music. Today, this is still the primary purpose. You can increase functionality with add-ins, but every single feature that you want to incorporate in a CarPC means manual work requiring technical know-how, extra parts, and possibly hours of work troubleshooting and installing.

      At first I thought having a CarPC was a wonderful idea and I was certain that I would put one in all my future vehicles. But nowadays, manufacturers are incorporating easy to use technologies in their vehicles and advancing much faster than the CarPC community is. I still dont think most products offered by OEMs today can compete with a CarPC just yet, but in a few years as prices come down and features increase, there may be little reason to go through the hassle of a CarPC over OEM.

      It's going to be especially difficult going the CarPC route in the future because manufacturers are making things so specialized with no standard interface to hook onto for auxiliary modifications. Take for example the double DIN radio standard. This barely exists nowadays on new vehicles, so you pretty much have to do custom fab work just getting an LCD installed in the first place. This may be a dying hobby in my opinion.

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      • #4
        i agree on all points..

        as a example, i would never recommend a carpc to anyone who did not have time, or a interest in computers... period. i just don't feel that any hardware, or software that any of us currently use is consistently reliable enough, or easy enough to use that anyone could pick it up and make it work... (i still have trouble getting rr setup the way i need it)

        the OEM's are very quickly learning that the old 5 to 10 year new product development cycle is no longer acceptable with the current expectations of consumers when it comes to electronics.

        ford has done a great job adapting themselves to this with SYNC, and their new Edge has a OE entertainment system that would keep me happy enough to maintain most of the factory equipment for far longer then i usually do..

        one of the things that i think has hurt around here is that there seem to be less and less developers, or people that can code. there are many ideas, but a limited base of who can do it.. like many, i am more of a hardware integrator-- i can put things together in ways they were never meant to be, but am ultimately limited by the software it takes to run it..
        My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
        "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"


        next project? subaru brz
        carpc undecided

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        • #5
          I agree as well. Car PC's are a pain in the ***, expensive, and difficult to configure, update, and integrate. The desire to make front ends do everything makes them good at very few things (if any).
          Originally posted by ghettocruzer
          I was gung ho on building a PC [until] just recently. However, between my new phone having internet and GPS and all...and this kit...Im starting to have trouble justfiying it haha.
          Want to:
          -Find out about the new iBug iPad install?
          -Find out about carPC's in just 5 minutes? View the Car PC 101 video

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          • #6
            Originally posted by soundman98 View Post
            i agree on all points..

            one of the things that i think has hurt around here is that there seem to be less and less developers, or people that can code. there are many ideas, but a limited base of who can do it.. like many, i am more of a hardware integrator-- i can put things together in ways they were never meant to be, but am ultimately limited by the software it takes to run it..
            x10!!! No offense to this great community, but I totally agree on the lack of software developers. Sure there are still quite a few, but they are mostly busy with their own projects, life, work, etc. I remember when Guino first started on Ride Runner, we were throwing out ideas, and he was generating updates like crazy - 2 or three a week. And when I asked about a speed variable volume, there were three alternatives generated in short order. Today, I recognize I can't even throw money at a software coder to get something done - they don't want it, they won't do it. The last coding I asked for (flash altimeter) and got took over a year for someone to feel sorry for me and do in less than a week. And don't even think about a hardware mod (Audio over USB from UAS4), hell I volunteered to completely fund the development and was ignored - he's too busy. I remember I tried to buy a BoomZBox when they first hit Mp3Car, tried to give Heather $300 cash and they wouldn't let me take it home.

            So yeah, the developers here are growing older with greater responsibilities elsewhere, I get that. But where are the new programmers, the young and enthusiastic hobbyists? The never say never, nothing's impossible, up-all-nite, overcoming all obstacles, genius volunteering to tackle a software code just to help out, just to contribute to the forum. I don't know. What I do know is without them, the evolution of this hobby will stagnate. Hell it's already in a recession.
            HARDWARE: Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111w/WiFi and dock, internal Hitachi 500G HD, external 1TB HD, Sierra Wireless Aircard 550, DVD-RW, BoomzBox HD radio, XM Commander, Delorme GPS, Saitek X-52 Pro joystick, BluSoleil Bluetooth, TPMS, FB, Elm327

            Comment


            • #7
              Agreed with most points above. I would like to have an enemy to recommend him to install a carpc...

              Where's my whisky?
              Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
              Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

              07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ioi8 View Post

                Play digital content
                Early frontends like Media Engine and Frodo Player did this beautifully and simply. At this point, this is a non-issue except for the fact that newer front-ends [CF 3.1? RH] seem to overlook this feature and their media players are cumbersome, difficult to search by artist/song/album and can be slow to search your hard drive. Honestly, we might have taken steps backward with this feature.
                Quoted for truth.

                Amen brother.
                Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
                Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

                07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have 3 carpc installed and works without any problem other than problem I created .
                  my next car (Sienna or Odyssey) I won't install one. It's just too much work to get it to work.
                  Base on my usage (music/gps in the Supra, music/video/gps in the Matrix/Accord) it's not worth the effort.
                  Base on what available today, any decent head unit can play mp3/ipod/bluetooth .... with ease.
                  For video, a simple device like nBox or step up to a little expensive box can play video nicely.
                  100-150 bucks can get a darn nice gps unit.
                  2004 Matrix XR A7N8X-VM/400 AMD XP-M 2500+, DS-ATX
                  89 Supra Turbo P3 [email protected]/Abit BE6 II, Alpine M-BUS Car2PC.
                  Y2K Accord Dell GX150
                  RoadRunner is the best FE PERIOD
                  EmoRebellion is a SCAMMER

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                  • #10
                    We already have remote control and vehicle automation with nobdy and proximity with osdash. If anyone really cared about those features besides you and me, I could see your point. But nobdy is really only useful to people with the knowledge to make it work in their vehicle (ie reverse engineer their control protocols and stuff), unless you are doing just basic obd-ii stuff.

                    As for audio and safety, oh what an abysmal state we are in there... We need to go back to simple and make simple awesome.

                    what we need is a standardized piece of hardware that comes with standardized software pre-setup in which we can install all the apps we want, extend, innovate, and win. Not going to happen though, but it'd be a good start. We'd spend less time trying to get our vehicles to the point were we even have the most basic of features and more time innovating past what the volt and ford focus have today.

                    took over a year for someone to feel sorry for me and do in less than a week.
                    You probably could have learned to code it yourself in that time no? There really isn't enough money in it for developers to devote the necessary time and effort. Most developers will only implement features that are useful to them or otherwise trivial. Maybe the app store will change all that...
                    Former author of LinuxICE, nghost, nobdy.
                    Current author of Automotive Message Broker (AMB).
                    Works on Tizen IVI. Does not represent anyone or anything but himself.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      This thread needs some cheese...


                      Seriously, the software solution is you...meaning everyone
                      I picked up VB6 10 years ago, I am not a programmer.
                      I'm a 51 year old dumb mechanic, that happens to have an electronics hobby.
                      I figured out VB on my own.
                      I dloaded .Net 1.0 when it first came out and dove in.
                      I figured it out on my own.
                      .Net is free to download.
                      There is plenty of help out there to get you started.
                      The solution is you. If you want or need a feature you just create the solution.
                      I have only been with this community for a couple of years and I was able to learn the software solution I wanted, even providing a couple of solutions myself.
                      There isn't any reason that you can't find or provide a software solution.
                      Most of it is free! The only thing that isn't free is your time.
                      All those diminishing programmers out there have to spend the time to create the solutions. Why can't you? Meaning anyone...
                      There are no special skills required. You just have to be able to read and think...
                      There are a lot of very talented programmers contributing to this hobby, and saying these things about their efforts and time invested providing you with a solution is a disservice to these people who have spent the time to learn. IMHO
                      They have lives just like you, but they spend the time to create.
                      To say that the CarPC hobby is dying is giving up on yourself.

                      To say that the existing CarPC solutions are less than adequate is silly.
                      Every CarPC hobbiest has a different need and desire. The drawbacks of the OEM solutions only center around personal preferences. That is where WE come in, the electronics hobbiest, the part time programmer, and MP3Car.com. One persons new neat feature is anothers bane. Thats why there are so many choices here. These choices fullfill the needs of everyones personal desires. You don't have to use the latest and greatest music database software, if you think it's too slow parsing through your 20,000 songs. There are very good front ends, skins, VR, Nav, Music control, ect... solutions here. You just have to take the time to learn.

                      The issue lies with the user who wants instant gratification of thier needs.
                      That is the younger generation in a nutshell. Thats why there are not many younger programmers out there. They don't want to spend the time to learn the sport. Society has taught that all you have to do is wave a dollar and your gadget, software, or need is fulfilled.

                      This community depends on you, providing the solutions, not sitting there waiting for someone else to provide.

                      Look around and learn, cause this CarPC community is alive and well!

                      I guess I'm just old school, If you want something done, you do it yourself, or you pitch in and help get it done...
                      ...JJG

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jebus View Post
                        To say that the CarPC hobby is dying is giving up on yourself.

                        To say that the existing CarPC solutions are less than adequate is silly.
                        Every CarPC hobbiest has a different need and desire. The drawbacks of the OEM solutions only center around personal preferences. That is where WE come in, the electronics hobbiest, the part time programmer, and MP3Car.com.
                        Yes, and no. I think the main point was that it's loosing momentum due to OEM solutions that center around proprietary units rather than an OEM installed PC. The other being that less are drawn to this as a solution since it is so much simpler to just add the 1 or 2 things that might now be missing from an OEM solution with some add-on device since this really requires research, planning, and at least a certain degree of technical and computer knowledge. There is no way for instance, even completely installed for them, would I suggest my parents (late 50's) should have one in their vehicle. The nightmare scenarios that could play out are practically limitless.

                        I wouldn't personally say it's "dying" myself, I think anyone who truly thought this would be the way cars would be in the future was deluding themselves, as manufacturers goal is to do what the majority of consumers want for peripheral/integration/automation/audio purposes with as minimal an impact on the sticker price as possible. I was still hoping so the idea of getting anything you wanted with a standardized pc interface would at least catch on enough to be sell-able as an after-market product that even made it to the local audio shop for installs, but as stated, with smart-phones and the like I just don't see how even that could happen now. While these far easier and cheaper tack-on devices exist this will stay a niche.

                        I would still say that if OEM pc installs become the standard we will have won so to speak, as that would make actual installation and integration that much easier, with the probable outcome of making this more mainstream as a solution. But as stated in another thread it seems more likely they will come up with the same old half-crapola factory radio that just has bluetooth integration with your droid or iphone; as that would be a far more cost effective means to give the masses what they want.
                        2008 Ford Mustang GT/CS CARPC(99%)
                        Software: Ride/Road-Runner, Digital FX skin 5.x, iGuidance 2011, GPSgate on Win7 64bit

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wayne613 View Post
                          Yes, and no. I think the main point was that it's loosing momentum due to OEM solutions that center around proprietary units rather than an OEM installed PC. The other being that less are drawn to this as a solution since it is so much simpler to just add the 1 or 2 things that might now be missing from an OEM solution with some add-on device since this really requires research, planning, and at least a certain degree of technical and computer knowledge. There is no way for instance even completely installed for them would I suggest my parents (late 50's) should have one in their vehicle should I or someone else who has worked with computers isn't around to help them when something doesn't work right, or something in that vein.

                          I wouldn't personally say it's "dying" myself, I think anyone who truly thought this would be the way cars would be in the future was deluding themselves, as they're goal is to do what the majority of consumers want for peripheral/integration/automation/audio purposes with as minimal an impact on the sticker price as possible. I was still hoping so the idea of getting anything you wanted with a standardized pc interface would at least catch on enough to be sell-able as an after-market product that even made it to the local audio shop for installs, but as stated, with smart-phones and the like I just don't see how even that could happen now. While these far easier and cheaper tack-on devices exist this will stay a niche.

                          I would still say that if OEM pc installs become the standard we will have won so to speak, as that would make actual installation and integration that much easier.

                          Would your parents even want a CarPC? Thats why they make simple Navi units, for people who don't want, or need a CarPC. That is the majority of people. Thats why this hobby won't grow into mass market.

                          One word eliminates all this that you wish for from the OEM's: Liability
                          The OEM will never give you the features you desire, sure economics is a major factor, but the Liability factor eliminates even the thought of the OEM's providing the solutions you seek.

                          Personal freedom is why this hobby niche will never go away and continue to live. The OEM void will always be filled with this hobby.
                          The only thing that I believe will cause any harm to this hobby is Big Brother. Outright banning CarPC installs is something I could see happening. Of course to protect us from ourselves...
                          ...JJG

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jebus View Post
                            Would your parents even want a CarPC? Thats why they make simple Navi units, for people who don't want, or need a CarPC. That is the majority of people. Thats why this hobby won't grow into mass market.

                            One word eliminates all this that you wish for from the OEM's: Liability
                            The OEM will never give you the features you desire, sure economics is a major factor, but the Liability factor eliminates even the thought of the OEM's providing the solutions you seek.

                            Personal freedom is why this hobby niche will never go away and continue to live. The OEM void will always be filled with this hobby.
                            The only thing that I believe will cause any harm to this hobby is Big Brother. Outright banning CarPC installs is something I could see happening. Of course to protect us from ourselves...
                            ...JJG
                            I think many including my parents would if they were shown they could play every cd they own without having to dig around, could speak what to play, then call so-and-so at the same time, then push a button for turn-by-turn directions that pauses the playing music. But then again, this can be "generally" achieved cheaply with a gps device and a car with bluetooth for the phone as stated.

                            I don't think it will die, but you can't deny the downtrend with so many easier options now to get close to the usual base reasons functionality wise of installing a carPC.

                            As for the government stepping in for actual harm, I'm right there with you. I can't stand the modern mentality of saving you from yourself laws whether it's cigarettes or seatbelts. I don't know that carPC's would guarder enough attention to be outright banned, but since many head-units now have dvd/tv capability I can see them being considered the same thing.
                            2008 Ford Mustang GT/CS CARPC(99%)
                            Software: Ride/Road-Runner, Digital FX skin 5.x, iGuidance 2011, GPSgate on Win7 64bit

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jebus View Post
                              Seriously, the software solution is you...meaning everyone
                              ...
                              I guess I'm just old school, If you want something done, you do it yourself, or you pitch in and help get it done...
                              ...JJG
                              Your post captures the essence of this CarPC hobby way back when it got started. In theory, this is what the whole CarPC community is about. But I think it's changing though due to people attitudes toward the hobby, OEM solutions, and the general market. I dont think anyone could have predicted back then what it would be like now.

                              I suppose you could say that maybe this newer generation could be lazy, and I see it as a valid point. But the primary reason for the lack of development I think is due to increasing complexity of hardware and software. In general, you didnt have to learn as much back then to accomplish a goal than you do now. All the primary important features have been developed. Sure you could write a basic plugin or whatnot to do something neat, but all the newer, high tech features that would be required of software to be able to compete with future OEM solutions takes ALOT of specialization and require a much steeper learning curve than before. It was much easier for the community to compete with a standard black box OEM car radio of the 90's then it is to compete with something like Microsoft SYNC which integrates a whole lot more features into the vehicle.

                              5 years ago, nearly every week someone would think of a unique solution for something. Now, it's almost as if most of the primary issues with the CarPC already have solutions to them and the community is merely redistributing that information. It's evident if you see, compared to 5 years ago, how many replies today are "just search, the issue has been discussed here before".

                              If you think about it, the CarPC hobby is always going to be something obscure that 99% of the population has never heard about. I dont think the goal of the CarPC community was ever to "win" by having a PC as standard OEM equipment. It was a more innovative way to accomplish something (aka. music, GPS, phone). But now, the manufacturers are able to come up with more innovative, user friendly solutions than what this community can provide. The general public wants answers to solutions quickly and that can be solved by throwing money at it. This is something that OEMs can provide and the CarPC community cannot.

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