After quite some time, here is the update on the current state of QCar. Here is the list of available modules with functionality highlights.
- Custom actions for plug-ins can now be registered for any key combination (with a few exceptions) so it is now easy to connect more controllers using USB overdrive and map the external controls to functions of plug-ins. An example is the dedicated "voice memo record" button in my Jeep, that triggers recording at any time, so I do not have to go thru the menu structure.
- Some improvements in the GUI, it is now easier to implement complex "dialogs", text scrolling is much smoother. Internally there is now support for gradient-filled buttons and other objects, but this is not yet exposed in setup and usable by the users.
Is based on OpenStreet Maps, that can either be stored locally or loaded on-demand from the internet. The quality is not as consistent as is for Navteq and TeleAtlas maps, but for most of the Europe and the US it is quite good. The maps contain a lot of extra information that is not available in regular road maps (i.e. landmarks, powerlines, off-road trails, tracks etc.). The maps are converted to our own format, the size of data for whole Europe is about 22GB (Lisbon, Portugal to St. Petersburg in Russia)
We can and do use overlays for detailed topo maps. At the moment, these are bitmap-based, but the open plug-in architecture allows for vector data as well.
Unlike TeleAtlas or Navteq-based navigations, QCar navigation does display vertical situation correctly - i.e. aquaducts are aquaducsts and if there is a bridge over a motorway, it is drawn above the motorway. Try to look at this in common navigation devices. The map engine also supports drawing of 3D terrain, unfortunately we do not have a reliable source of terrain elevation data in usable resolution, so this is not visible to the user right now.
The view setup is very flexible and allows some nice features: so you can define the level of detail, color schemes etc. The map zoom can automatically be adjusted depending on the vehicle speed (in minutes of driving - ie. you always see n minutes ahead of your current position at the current speed).
We do support POIs in Garmin, GPX, KML and OV2 (TomTom) formats. There is also support for periodically updated POIs - typically locations of other vehicles, but it can also be used to distribute traffic situation or weather data.
Compass and Inclinometer
This module connects to Ocean Server's compass and gyro. It provides the information about heading, tilt and roll of the car. Tilt and roll are working fine, the compass is working, but rather difficult to calibrate in some cars.
Is more configurable now, it is primarily designed to work with GPSGate.com as tracking server. It can either update the position in real-time or it can cache the track locally and upload it once an internet connection has become available. There is now also a "private" mode that can be enabled in setup. In this mode, the user can turn the data collection and transmission off completely.
Allows to join WiFi networks both protected and unprotected. Allows creation of an ad-hoc network. In the future, it will also be possible to join hidden networks by entering their SSID, it does not work at the moment.
There are a few minor improvements in the user interface and it is now possible to adjust the ratio between volume of music playback and the volume of standard system output (and speech feedback). We are working on a solution that would allow easier synchronization between home and car computer, including playlists and such.
Trip computer + EDC connector + System monitor
These two allow connection to our new interface board that collects and stores engine data and the total distance counter. The trip computer calculates the distance, maximum and average speed, average and total fuel consumption, the EDC connector together with System monitor can display the estimated range and fuel level.
A new version of the interface is in testing - basic functions are the same, but the unit can now work correctly in dual-fuel cars (gasoline/LPG is quite popular here).
We have decided to replace the old telephony module (which used Bluetooth to control regular mobile phone, but had problems with talk-trhu/handsfree calling) with a module that uses SIP to make calls. We can also imagine implementing Jabber or a similar protocol in the future, but it is not a top priority.
Other modules have only been changed slightly since the last public release. Support for HQCT tuner has been dropped since it is now becoming more and more reasonable to use 3G internet for internet radio reception.
At the moment, we are working on improvements in navigation (i.e. automatic navigation to gas station on low fuel etc.) and a communication module that would allow transmissions of simple messages (short text, position updates) over radio links (i.e. shortwave, PMR, GMRS/FRS) using either low-frequency tones or DTMF-based communication protocol. One of our friends is looking into a module that would allow remote control of radio transceivers from the software.
As you can see, the emphasis is now more on cooperative functions and offroad and expedition use, but we believe the system is still quite good for regular on-road driving and in-car entertainment.
Where do we get the Qcar front end + apps and modules?