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 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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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...took over a year for someone to feel sorry for me and do in less than a week.
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.