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Where are we headed?

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  • Where are we headed?

    Time for everyone to put on their thinking caps and ponder the future. Let me start by putting forth a couple of observations:
    • All of the major frontends currently on the market represent the state of the it was 4 to 10 years ago. Doesn't mean they aren't good at what they do, it just means that they were designed primarily to address issues that no longer exist.
    • The "connected car" is the norm. Whether or not the onboard infotainment system is fully connected, its is almost certain that the driver is carrying a smartphone. To a much greater degree than was true even a year or two ago, the internet is truly "everywhere".
    • The era of carrying your media collection with you is rapidly coming to an end. Public and private streaming services, whether free or subscription-based eliminate the need to drag it all around with you. The ability to store your own personal media collection in the cloud, or to access it via your own media streaming servers allows for the same level of personalization we've always desired.
    • All of the car manufacturers have gotten onboard the connected infotainment bandwagon. Chances are, you can find a system at some trim level that does very nearly everything you could possible want from an infotainment system, and do it well. Better than you can with most carPCs I've ever seen.

    So I ask this question: Is the carPC community still "leading the pack", or have we in fact, fallen behind the mainstream. Putting aside the whole DIY ethos (which is perfectly valid, no question about that), is there really any innovation occurring here?

  • #2
    I'd say innovation are still happening, but I do agree that the carPC might be outclassed by other platforms/software setups.

    The way most of the frontends currently work does allow for "connected car" to a certain extend via plugins, but they hasn't followed the "multi device" trend.
    With that I mean that some wants to use a smartphone to interact with their head unit while others want to use the head unit it self, and some wants to use a tablet for the kids and still have this interact/integrate with the rest of the setup. This is currently lacking in the current frontends.
    This is something the automakers them self has started looking at, as more and more cars are providing a incar router to provide internet for several devices, as well as integrating it with car specific apps to allow the device to control certain aspects of the media system.

    You mentioned "issues that no longer exists", could you elaborate on that? What issues do you feel no longer exists?
    Failure is not an option...
    __________________________________________________ ______________________________
    The only full multizone / multiscreen cross platform open source Front End -> OpenMobile


    • #3
      Judging by that activity on this site lately, I don't think we are headed too far...

      IMO, (nothing more) I still believe the software & hardware available here is enough to keep us on the cutting edge if we so choose. Here's why by comparing us to many OEM systems:

      - We don't have to pay $200+ to update our maps & if the GPS SW sucks, we can try something else, hell, run both at the same time if we want to.
      - We can store limitless amounts of music, movies etc if we choose to. That's still important here in Canada, we don't have unlimited data plans (not many available anyways) plus we still have plenty of cellular dead spots.
      -Some of us really like our OBD integration which is NA on all OEM to my knowledge
      -the ability to move our setup to another vehicle without paying 2-3K for a new NAV/info option.

      I could keep listing this stuff, no limitations on how to use the system (IE: not having to be stopped), the list goes on but you get the idea.

      But I think the real issue is the factory stuff has got "good enough" that we have lost a ton of people. The people that wanted "something" more than a AM/FM/CD head unit and were willing to put the effort in to learn to build it in order to get it, but didn't necessarily do it for the hobby value of it. They just wanted the end result and now they can get enough functionality from the OEM to save them the trouble.

      I can tell you I am not a software guy and the learning curve to has been huge. I have invested a lot of hours it it trying to learn and made OK headway but I'm still not happy with yet.. I really enjoy the fabrication/hardware side of it and I think I'm OK at it, but there are plenty out there that have no interest and /or ability and/or facility to make it happen.

      So at the end of the day I still believe this hobby will only appeal, long term, to the "chosen few" unless a simple "plug these components together & install this disc" solution is available....and I am doubting that will ever happen...

      My 2007 Ford F350 Work Log located HERE


      • #4
        What a question....! i still got al lthe heads turning while i am on road .

        I dont know for the rest of you but i ll talk for vw toyta and subaru. These companies have all the technologies that somebody would like BUT sell them for a tone of euros. So the first thing is that they will get forced to lower their prices. The people will learn that what the oem are selling are simple to get with lower money.

        Today i got somebody on the road to give him a ride . He tried to conviece me that the tablets are far better than the desktops at these days. Desktop pcs are leading the party. And basically i have a desktop pc in my car. I even have autocad running at this thing....!

        Now coming to the car's side. The next thing in my dream pc would be phidgets ( sno were are you ) or arduino . That means that i would (in theory) measure anything but i mean anything in the car . So except that i can do it with the 1/5 of the oem vw, toyota, and subaru price, the most important thing is that this will drive the manufactors and the automotive companies to accept ( they will have no other solution at the end as the carpcs leading ) some compability at the electronics of the cars.

        I thinks you know then that the whole system of the automotive industry will change . For our interest of caurse ,And the powerfull "compatible microproccessor platforms" would be the cause for that.

        my apologies for replying as probably i am the guy with the smaller d*** around here but i hope you ll get what i am trtying to say.

        edit ::: philg posted first but i didn't saw ur annser man sorry posting again guys .when i started the reply. But it would be hardest to answer this question if we do separeate the pcs by their power category. That means that as long as somebody want's only to listen music ( ten years ago ) today he ll want to see videos . So coming to the tablets were all the taxis around here have installed with simple mounts i think there is no future for the oem cpus integration....! they will just see that there is no profit as it used to be there . Ah the guy with the music video will grab easily and android single or douple din pc......! This is a computer too isn't it ?

        edit 2 something last sorry guys. my father just bought an up ....! you now vw up. He got with it a oem unit ....! i didn't dare to ask but can you imagine of the benefits . no you can't . Trip computer doors ( not controlling only read ) navigation and multimedia ( dont get crazy only sound ) at 5-6 inch no capasitive touchscreen . And all that at < 6" . I am pretty sure he paid it more than 400 euros. and on the downside it writes on the downside GARMIN.
        Last edited by Happy_Feet; 05-01-2014, 02:22 PM.
        Vw Sharan 2007 1.9tdi || Exide 100Ah
        Fuzzy 945gme + core duo T2400 + 2gb ddr 667 + pci nvidia 5500 256mb + kingston v300 60gb + hdd 2.5" 100gb 5400 + Sure Gps module
        Primary monitor 8" 800x600 || Secondary monitor 15.4" 1280x800
        Powered by M2 atx


        • #5
          As the name of this site suggests, the initial impetus for developing carPCs was to support large mp3 collections. Video collections more or less came along for the ride. I have no doubt that there are plenty of user on this forum and mine that still do that, but for the larger market as a whole, is that really true? I want "my music" to be available on whatever device I happen to have at hand, be it desktop, tablet, or smartphone, and the way I do that is with Pandora, Spotify and Google Music. And you really don't need unlimited data to do that. Figuring to and from work as "typical", a 2-4gb plan would easily cover an entire month. The rest of the time, your device would connect via wifi. My point is that streaming collections of my music, plus curated selections a la Pandora or Spotify is the future. I will bet you money that you'll see "special" packaging from the major carriers before long that "includes" preferred data packages for streaming services like Netflix, Pandora, Hulu or Spotify. You pay xx dollars a month and those services don't count against your data plan total. It's the logical extension of the current bandwidth battles they're all fighting right now.

          Is all the "stuff' we can do with a carPC cool? No doubt. The "gee wiz" factor around here is very high. But is it all necessarily useful...or even desirable? In fact, my opinion is that an awful lot of development effort is put into features and capabilities that add nothing to the driving experience, and in some cases actual detract from usability and safety. Instead of improving safety, ease of use and adding real value to the system, we just pile on another coat of paint and more bling to impress/distract our passengers.

          Looks and style are at the core of most car-related hobbies, right along-side performance. I get that and appreciate its continued appeal. But to not just survive, but thrive, this community needs to become fully invested in the current state of the market and technology. I'm speaking more to software than to hardware here, but if we don't start embracing current technology and contemporary software design languages, I don't see how things are going to get any better.

          I have an awesome Scott stereo tube preamp and amplifier, some older JBL speaker and a Dual turntable. Throw on a JVC master disc pressing of "Dark Side of the Moon" and you talking about a GREAT listening experience. But nearly every piece of this entertainment experience represents 40-year old (or older) technology. Does it sound great? YES! Is it in any way relevant to a modern consumer? Not in the least. Yes, I know vinyl is making a comeback, but only so far as your ability to connect a USB turntable to your tablet. It's a question of relevance in the marketplace, and I'm concerned that we're losing ours.


          • #6
            First off I have to say that I agree with what you say about a lot of what car PCs do these days isn't that useful and adds very little. That's the main reason that I abandoned my Windows PC in favor of an Android tablet in my car. I also went away from having my car PC trying to do so much. I have a backup camera, dashcam, and separate AM/FM/CD/MP3 head unit because these have been clunky at best in so many PC/tablet implementations. They are nice features but they were done so poorly that they rarely worked when I wanted them to. So my tablet is a glorified music player with GPS and OBD II capabilities. And you know what? It does that so much better than any OEM implementation that I've seen. PowerAMP gets updated often and I don't have to look at my screen to change music as I can do touch gestures to change songs. GPS is always up-to-date with Google Maps. And I can get real-time OBD data with Torque.

            What would I like to add and where is the innovation? Integration of these capabilities, easily switching between them without looking at the screen, and continuity of interfaces is severely lacking. Integration of capabilities and continuity of interfaces are hard to do without significant software development resources. Switching would be greatly aided by a hardware interface of sorts. That brings me to another point: touch screens suck as an in-car interface; sure they're popular even amongst OEMs today but they require taking attention from the road to use. Why not innovate by taking a step back and using traditional methods that worked (buttons and wheels) along with modern tablet/PC hardware and a usable software interface? In my opinion the way forward is usability. If we get that, add back the extraneous features. Heads-up displays are cool too.
            Last edited by blafrisch; 05-01-2014, 04:03 PM.
            "You're just about as useless as JPEGs to Helen Keller" - Wierd Al


            • #7
              I think that yes, there are good head units and factory solutions available, but they all are lacking something important... The ability to grow, or move on to something better.

              If you run on out and buy the top of the line aftermarket head unit, next year there will be a better one. At least with a carpc, you can add those features, depending on your skill level, without discarding everything you currently have.

              I used to love Pandora, however they changed their annual subscription plan this year to a monthly plan. I dropped it, I would rather purchase 5 year blocks, but settled for 1 year blocks. 30 day blocks of service are not for me. So, I will be changing to a different content provider when I find one I like. Meanwhile, that coveted Pandora button spot on my front end screen has been replaced with a microphone button for voice command experimentation.

              So what else do I need that I cannot buy in a current generation head unit? I would like to turn on/off accessory lights, I would like to have USB3 transfer speeds, I would like to use Android apps in windows, I would like to be able to translate canbus codes into plain english in a log file for troubleshooting car issues, I would like to Push an new song I just heard into my car from my phone, so I can listen to it the next time I drive, I would like to use voice commands to navigate Soundcloud's web site while driving.

              With a car pc, it's still all possible, just dream it up, study what needs to be learned to do it, share your idea's with others who can contribute their skills to the dream, and stay on the cutting edge.

              The only thing I think may be considered dated about this site is just the name..., because our cars do so much more than play mp3's now.


              • #8
                Several years ago, I made the comment that any good Chinese 2Din solution could do 80% of what a carPC could do. In recent years, I've narrowed that down to 10%. And I fully agree that there isn't anything on the market except a carPC that will give you that final 10%. And it does not matter what you think that 10% is. I would probably argue that the final 10% is different for almost every carPC enthusiast. That explains why the hobby will never completely die. It also explains why it will never be more than a niche.

                Let's be honest: It takes a LOT of money, and a lot of time and effort to get that last 10% stable and working the way you want. For a lot of folks, they never even get there, because they're still trying to get pieces of the other 90% working. Unless the challenge of DIY and getting that last 10% is what you really enjoy, the value proposition of a carPC is a pretty hard case to make. Especially when the other 90% is basically plug and play from any number of different vendors at competitive prices, or already comes in your car.

                I'm just trying to suggest that we can't just keep doing variations on the same old theme and expect to appeal to a broader market. As a paid solution provider, if I don't find ways to expand my market, I cease to exist. But even in the open source community, I'd argue that it's pretty hard to maintain development momentum when your product no longer really represents the cutting edge. Darwin knew it when he saw it....evolve or die.


                • #9
                  I think youre looking at it from the wrong perspective.
                  The Car PC isnt there to be like the OEM solutions, tablets or aftermarket double DINs, head units. Never has been. Its there to be better, because its an open system that can be expanded whenever you like.
                  I mean, you talked about what people want, making the driving experience better, etc. But what does make the driving experience better? Music, a good navigation system and thats about it. Everything else is just fun to add. Nobody needs a Car PC for those basic functions. But Car PC users want more. They want to have something unique that is lots of fun and open to expansion. You didnt need a Car PC 10 years ago and dont need it now, if you only want mainstream.

                  The PC allows you to add things if you so desire. Want TV in your car? Add it. Want a camera in your car, or 2? Add them. Want tire pressure information in your car? Add it. Want satellite radio? Add it. Want digital radio? Add it. Want to control your upgraded ECU or piggyback directly? Add it. Want a huge TV for the back seats or for vacations? Add it. Theres just a ton of potential, but but the software limits those options. And I mean proper implemented software. Only few people want their system to look like its build together from generic software (with title bar visible, no joint design, etc). It just looks bad if you show it on conventions, meetings, etc and of course everyone will say they rather take a tablet or radio that has everything they need and looks good.
                  And just look at the software that is there already. There has been so much new features in the past just for music players, like adaptive EQs, more playing options, more sophisticated play lists, awesome visualizations, etc. They never found their way into any of the Car PC front end solutions or even as addons. Of course we are falling behind if new stuff isnt embraced and developers of that software only say "we dont need that". They need to grasp that they are not serving mainstream on Car PCs, never have been! They are serving people who are enthusiasts, who want something different, advanced, new. They will never make big money. If they want to make lots of money, they have been betting on the wrong horse for as long as they have been betting on it.

                  The Car PC scene needs to realize that they are still able to stay miles ahead and act as a way marker, just like they did before. But that wont happen if people like you, who provide us with essential software, think we arent going anywhere or need to adapt to what the mainstream wants.
                  There have been such awesome ideas in the past, but people just never created them. For example a g-force meter, which allows you to measure your cars HP, 0-60 time, 1/4 mile time, lateral g-force and much more. The hardware is available, but nobody ever wrote the software and people still need to buy the expensive and clunky external devices to get something like that. Even car manufacturers have implemented something like that already in their OEM systems.

                  If you give up, you will of course lose. But if you try and stay ahead you might actually succeed.
                  Our problem isnt that tablets and headunits have become more advanced. Our problem is that we havent advanced and have just rested on our laurels, and thats also why so many people left because they saw that nothing new is being adapted anymore and they will have the same with mainstream solutions now.


                  • #10
                    Sorry but i cant see what you mean. i am trying to say i just finished my first project and i am fully happy with this and all the things that have to come .

                    Safety isn't the car pc safety? My camera on the back is safety. Adding a camera on the front is safety ( in several ways ) . Adding expensive ( high accurasy long distance quick respond aka laser) distance sensors on the front of the car will be safety. adding some hicg accurancy gps modules the car would be able to stop on the red light by it self...! Adding tire sensors is safety. adding voice commands is safety . ur project is safety. yesterday a navigation program took me out of 1 hour traffic lose. that was safety cause my nerves couldn't stand that for another one hour. the abolity to see in the night with visual ads will be safety.
                    The cars reached the top of their mechanical technlogy . How faster can a f1 car become ? Now it is the turn of the electronic development.

                    At this point i think is the automotive industry now. Doing the whole thing (road tranportation) faster (not mechanically) more user friendly and top to them safer than everything else. So what it will take to them to do and integrate these things to their cars. How musc will take to a user to do all these stuff in a cheap double din android or ce platform .

                    I can do it with much less money than they can do it . So basically no. They cant do half of things of what people here do. A double din chinese platform and a oem platform cant give me at this time not even the 1/3 of what i have....! it is not 10 precent in my point of view. Of caurse everything is relative to someting and in theis case money . my basic pc at this time is less than 300$ . i told you how my father payed his ....!

                    Some years ago the cars didnt had anything that could named electronic device . now the cars will turn into expensive self moving computers . and the industry can't make anything by itself .

                    There are post and worklogs here that i am pretty sure that would leave some headoffice high grade technicians and designeers of various brands speechless.

                    And ur project is kind of a big part of the automotive future. So yea hardware will not go far from here as it is on it's top ( it will become smaller ) but software which has a lot of users in several microprossesor platforms will.
                    Vw Sharan 2007 1.9tdi || Exide 100Ah
                    Fuzzy 945gme + core duo T2400 + 2gb ddr 667 + pci nvidia 5500 256mb + kingston v300 60gb + hdd 2.5" 100gb 5400 + Sure Gps module
                    Primary monitor 8" 800x600 || Secondary monitor 15.4" 1280x800
                    Powered by M2 atx


                    • #11
                      i see the competition as smartphones/tablets and high end car manufactures ...not much in the chinese double din....i think we should be heading towards using the competition not trying to out do them....a decent phone is really a dumb terminal built for access to media and general internet although it has the cpu capability for so much more... the unused power of them,screensharing /screencasting,social media i dont care about when driving and excellent mapping with traffic...(somthing we will probably never have access to) are we not doing a better job of pushing content,calls,navigation and really anything we want to our carpc..let them do the heavy lifting!!!
                      i have a high powered big screen remote in my pocket that cannot do much for my carpc...


                      • #12
                        Personally, I think if windows had an android virtualization everything would be perfect. That way the same way Mac can run windows stuff, windows can run android stuff. That one lack to me is stagnating this whole feature from this moving forward or keeping up with the automotive industry on a mass level.


                        • #13
                          Champak,Android emulation would be amazing


                          • #14
                            +1 on Android emulation and data storage sharing from our phone. That's a front end I would buy.



                            • #15
                              Originally posted by VegasGuy View Post
                              I'm just trying to suggest that we can't just keep doing variations on the same old theme and expect to appeal to a broader market. As a paid solution provider, if I don't find ways to expand my market, I cease to exist. But even in the open source community, I'd argue that it's pretty hard to maintain development momentum when your product no longer really represents the cutting edge. Darwin knew it when he saw it....evolve or die.
                              I think I get where you are coming from but correct me if I'm wrong. You are not asking if the sky is still the limit on the tech side of a car PC, I think we all agree that it is IF you have the cash, knowledge, desire & time to get there. However most people are lacking at least one of these elements.

                              I talked my brother into buying a used one from the classifieds last summer. He's a teacher and commutes daily for 1.5 hrs each way, a natural for it...he wants to get rid of it...too much trouble maintaining it, updating windows, re-plugging in USB devices occasionally. He loves it's function, not interested in the work.

                              It sounds to me like you want to know how do you expand your potential customer base. I don't believe it's by being on the cutting edge, that's what many here are interested in but I don't believe that it will net you sales to the "masses". Many are happy with HU functionality but want to be just a little bit different or "better" than their buddy's car.

                              I would submit that if you took 100 people that had interest (there's the desire element) in upgrading their in dash solution via head unit or otherwise, I believe 95 of them would shy away from a PC due to the knowledge element. I say this because you don't know how many people have fallen in love with my PC but ask, how hard would it be to put one in my car? My honest answer: "easy to throw the hardware in but getting it to work right....that's another story unless you are really good with PC's, I'm still struggling with mine". These are all people with aftermarket head units, the desire is there, yet not one of them pursued it other than my brother and he wants out after only months. I suspect the time & cost element would be about equal in loss of customers but I can assure you, which ever is the next greatest issue, it's WAY less than 95%, or else the aftermarket head unit sales would be not much further ahead than we are for "customers".

                              So with the right solution, you once again would have a shot at all 100 customers and will lose a lower % of them due to money or time than due to knowledge.

                              If you created a product that aftermarket installers trusted, I suspect you would find a lot more market, now you've eliminated the time element so of those 100 people with desire, the only loss would be to money, that isn't one you can easily overcome. Your better off to not cheapen down your process to a point where it marginally works just to capture the penny pinchers. You risk losing a lot more if it doesn't work right. IMO, that's kind of were you are right now.

                              If you subscribe to this theory then the answer is:

                              Provide a relatively bug free product (product being a disc/download that installs easily on most PC's over top of a fresh copy of windows 8.1) that is almost plug & play with reasonable capability yet still has the ability for the user to play around with it to expand features but has a restore button to put it back to fresh install if he f's it up. A system image button would be a good idea as well: "once you have all of your devices connected, click the "create image" button to create a system image to defer back to". Also an update button would be a good idea for your updates.

                              Buy 3 (good/better/best) readily available laptops off the shelf every year and test to ensure your product works flawlessly on them then state that " for the best experience, we suggest a Toshiba XXX, HP Xxxx or a Dell xxxx.

                              Dash screen adapters are now available for most vehicles. Using a laptop keeps it all self contained without the issue of loose cards or customers trying to install random cards with driver issues then blaming your product when it doesn't work. Just a P1900 P/S, screen/dash kit and the "approved by CF" USB devices and your install is done, add the Centrafuse disc to the PC then enjoy. If you could include the USB drivers for the approved devices with your software and offer a step by step install, even better. Instead of spending all of your time for updates on new obscure features, spend some of your effort adding to the list of approved USB devices as new/better hardware comes available.

                              IMO, that's how you make money off of this niche, not how you remain on the cutting edge, I think they are two different goals...
                              My 2007 Ford F350 Work Log located HERE