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Thread: Automotive Computing (R)Evolution - The Android Head Unit Build Part 1

  1. #1
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    Automotive Computing (R)Evolution - The Android Head Unit Build Part 1



    The Crossroads...

    Somewhere, far too long ago to remember, I realized that a “practical” Windows-based car PC platform with all the bells and whistles may perhaps be an unreasonable goal. Now that my seemingly powerful-enough hardware is becoming more and more unreliable (and outdated), I find myself smack dab in the middle of crossroads pertaining to the future of my automotive infotainment platform. On one hand, I’ve got years and thousands of hours invested into attempting to create the perfect Windows automotive ecosystem. The other hand sees a more efficient platform brewing in Android, with updates and supporters that are seemingly blurring the lines between “on the go” and “in the car” applications.


    Old (Not So?) Faithful


    Perhaps I should have prefaced this blog with the fact that I am not a user of the “common” Windows car PC. My current Zotac/Intel dual-core car PC features include the following capabilities:

    -GPS Hardware with live tracking
    -Tire Pressure Monitoring
    - SpaceNavigator Control
    - Parking Sensor Interface
    - Rear Backup Camera
    - Fusion Brain with a host of various Sensors
    - XM/HD Radio
    - Custom Bluetooth Phone Hardware
    - Bluetooth ODX MX
    - USB Array Microphone for hands-free communications
    - A total of 21 USB devices, spread over 3 self-powered USB hubs


    All this hardware and more is being delicately managed by my choice of front end software. For the most part, the system as a whole works. But there are times where resume for system sleep doesn’t occur so smoothly, HD Radio fails to initialize, or the system draws so much voltage at rest that it completely drains an auxiliary power cell.


    The New Kid On The Block



    Now, based on the details of the Windows system, one might surmise that the run of the mill android tablet install might come short of fulfilling my demands. Raspberry Pi seemed initially intriguing, but falls short on true horsepower. In short, I need an Android board that can haul the load without compromise, all while sipping power. Enter the ODROID-X2, a 1.7ghz quad-core Android development board, complete with 2ghz RAM and a 64GB eMMC module. Essentially, this is the same Exynos4412 chip that powers the international variant of the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s safe to say this device should meet my demands at a mere 5 volts and be powered by a Mini-Box DC/DC Power Converter.


    So the challenge as I so dramatically impose on myself, is to build a complete and total Android-based car PC platform to replace my current system and all of its capabilities. Join me as I get to know the development board, power up the system for bench testing, attempt the in-vehicle installation, and configure all necessary software along the way. Ultimately, the project may finally solve my longing desire to reliability integrate all of my madness into a modern automobile. Success or failure, every few days comes a new adventure. Check back next time for a new hardware component overview.
    Last edited by Sonicxtacy02; 06-05-2013 at 01:57 PM.

  2. #2
    Variable Bitrate chris350's Avatar
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    interesting..im along for the ride!
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    Maximum Bitrate rray's Avatar
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    I started with Android for my car, so I am interested too. Sadly, I pulled my Android unit in favor of Windows, just for the features. I had problems with things like slow boot times, failures reading SD cards that have 8GB of mp3 on them, no HD radio, etc.

    I am curious what you can get going. I installed Bluestacks to put Android on my carpc, but it don't run on my combination of win8 and or atom cpu, so I don't have Android running yet. It does run on my home PC though.

    What is the first things you are planning on getting working... HD and XM Radio?

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    Constant Bitrate eugenweij's Avatar
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    this looks promising , I cant wait to see more

    btw, where did you buy the board?

    and have you got an idea as to the android version you want to run?
    View my worklog here

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    Quote Originally Posted by eugenweij View Post
    this looks promising , I cant wait to see more

    btw, where did you buy the board?

    and have you got an idea as to the android version you want to run?
    This board is available at hardkernel.com, along with many of the accessories you'll want/need. At $135 it's an absolute steal of a deal honestly. I bought the device with a 64GB eMMC which was preloaded with ICS 4.0.4. I'll promptly be updating to Jelly Bean for added Bluetooth support. Before ordering, be aware that because the device is listed as an Android computer, customs will require you to sign a form declaring your intent for the device. As long as you order in low quantities they wont give you too much of a headache, but it could potentially cause a delay in shipping. I was told by Hardkernel to expect 3 weeks from the time its ordered until the time its received. In reality it was more like 8 days. The manufacturer has been great to work with and support is readily available.

    Quote Originally Posted by rray View Post
    I started with Android for my car, so I am interested too. Sadly, I pulled my Android unit in favor of Windows, just for the features. I had problems with things like slow boot times, failures reading SD cards that have 8GB of mp3 on them, no HD radio, etc.

    I am curious what you can get going. I installed Bluestacks to put Android on my carpc, but it don't run on my combination of win8 and or atom cpu, so I don't have Android running yet. It does run on my home PC though.

    What is the first things you are planning on getting working... HD and XM Radio?
    I've attempting a few bench builds using other android development boards and my problems always boiled down to 3 things:

    1. Not enough processing power
    2. Lack of USB expansion
    3. Low driver support

    In the short time I've had the ODROID-X2 I can say ALL of these issues are resolved out of the box. Without spoiling anything, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised with how easy it will be to adapt the X2 into the car

    As for your questions, at this point, I'll be using software solutions for XM and HD Radio. That's not to say I wont be looking at integrating those pieces of hardware, but for the sake of starting this blog I've got to prioritize when possible. The devices that don't have a internet based solution out of the box (such as TPMS, parking sensor support, and dare I say, SpaceNavigator support) will be cared for first.


    Something I meant to mention in the original blog post is the fact that I want the mp3Car community involved in this process as much as possible. As cool as it would be to get this thing hooked up and go, I'd like for this project to be more about you guys. That's why the blog posts will be spaced out over the course of a few days each, to allow for feedback, criticism, or whatever you'd like to see. I have a project objective in mind, but I'd very much like that to be adapted to what the community would like to see from this build. So by all means, everyone interested please contribute!
    Last edited by Sonicxtacy02; 06-06-2013 at 08:34 AM.
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    This look very interesting and comes right on time for me as I'm in the process of replacing my carpc with a tablet. This looks like it can be an even better solution in the long run.

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    Constant Bitrate eugenweij's Avatar
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    one of the first things that comes to mind when looking at the specs is that if I would buy it , I want to have to change as little hardware as possible.

    compatibility with known screens (vga, dvi and hdmi) as well as the usb touchscreen interfaces most of us use, compatibility with the popular bt dongles and perhaps a breakout board that accommodates a sata port for drives containing our multimedia.

    hope that this helps you out
    View my worklog here

  8. #8
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    I am also going down the android road for my build. I'm currently testing out usb >optical streaming devices that will work with my nexus7 to feed a Alpine H701. I am also researching the MINIX NEO X5 android device with optical out... Good stuff.. Subscribed!

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 2
    Last edited by crabbdaddy; 06-07-2013 at 06:37 AM. Reason: added link
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    I picked up a nice USB dac for my Nexus 7. Seems there are many optical units to choose from but not many coaxial but I did find one that did both and could do 24/96. Now I have to wait for a kernel to come out with 24/96 support as the current kernel only does 16/44.1 . Still this board here is interesting but I wish there was a nice touchscreen option available.

  10. #10
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    Sounds like a good match for the screen mentioned elsewhere on this site where the guy had a touch screen matched with a 3d printed bezel and buttons with volume control.

    I am hoping to get up to speed on the OM front end and get it ported to work under Linux. If I do that then getting it to work under Android can't be far behind... Although will require obtaining a $400 license and some restructuring of the software...

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