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Thread: BMW e90 with Xperia Z Ultra controlled by iDrive Controller

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2015

    BMW e90 with Xperia Z Ultra controlled by iDrive Controller

    Hi everybody

    This is the first time i ever wrote a post this long, and please forgive my english, as i am aware, it’s bad.

    I was very happy with the e90, but one thing it was bothering me was the lack of the iDrive, and to be honest , even if it was fitted with one, i would still not be happy as i would still miss all the features offered by the android device, so i decide to take the plunge and fit one in the car.

    The project is still ongoing, but i believe it is worth sharing at this stage as it is fully functional and fun to use

    I control the Android device using a iDrive controller. Functions i have are:

    Google voice commands


    Music Controls:
    Next Song
    Previous Song
    Previous album / folder
    Next album / folder
    Play / Pause

    Google Maps

    The device i chose was as Xperia Z ultra. Since i was planing to have the device fitted above the air vents, i didn’t want anything too big and the xperia featuring a 6.44 inch was ideal. The other advantage of the device is the magnetic connector / dock charger as for my project i wanted to have the device hard wired to a usb keyboard (for controls), instead of a bluetooth keyboard in order to give full priority of the Bluetooth for the music playback. I know i could have usb OTG for keyboard and charger simultaneously, but i decided to keep them separate, being Microusb for OTG and magnetic connector for power.
    The position of microusb and dock connector on the device was also beneficial for my project.

    I have bough and tried the nexus 7, but there was a few cons that made me return it.
    - Small internal storage
    - No microSD port
    - The OTG for external storage is somehow disabled and would require rooting, and i decide not to root the device and void the guarantee
    - The size and position of the ports

    Controls choice (for now)
    I was initially planing to use only the steering wheel for the controls, and was planing in using the RcJoyCon (, but then decide against as i wanted more buttons to control de android device, and the iDrive turned out to be a good option offering at least 12 functions (in my case) that can be even converted to 24 using a key modifier (alt, control, etc). I still want the steering wheel controls though, but being unemployed fighting for work forced me to put the improvements on hold.

    iDrive Control the Tablet
    The iDrive works as a external USB connected to the Xperia via OTG (last two pictures). The keystrokes of the IDrive, sent to the usb keyboard are translated in to commands / functions using the app External Keyboard Helper or the fantastic Tasker.

    You will see within the pictures, that my solution for the iDrive as an Android controller, was to replace the pcbs with my custom made pcbs, so the IDrive a this stage works as a group of buttons/switches to provide the keystrokes to the usb keyboard pcbs board. I know that i could have a Arduino to emulate a usb keyboard capturing the signals from the drive, but my knowledge working with Arduino is non existent, and also being unemployed forced me to work with what i had available.

    The coupler
    I wanted to have to option to remove the tablet from the car depending where the car would be parked, so i deceived to create a coupler. took a few pieces of acrylic, shaped, glued and created the two parts. I am really happy with it. As for the electronic connections (power + usb keyboard) i used a computer hard disk sata connector. It is perfect for providing stable contact even half way trough the course of the connector length.

    The Mount
    This stage of the project was fun. Casting. I used a wax modelling clay to cast the dock around the coupler, then cast the wax in silicone , and finally resin. The resin was suppose to be black, but it turnout gray (bad batch says the seller. The mount is fixed used double sided tape and some other trick i used that makes it hard rock stable, without any permanent fixing or damage to the dash. The double sided tape is applied only to the aluminum trim, so nothing is fixed on glued onto the dash to avoid marks.

    Sound from Tablet to BMW Radio
    My e90 has a auxiliary input , so i bough a very cheap Bluetooth module to stream the music to it. I plan to replace this module with a parrot handsfree module so i will also be able to make and receive calls. For now i am using the tablet talk app (phone and tablet) to read my sms from my phone in the pocket and to see who is calling me, so if it is important, i pull over and call back.

    Well , that’s it for now guys. I hope you enjoyed my post and once again, sorry for the broken English. I will soon put more detailed photos of the project on my website, and share it here.

    thank you very much for reading

    The Mount (resin and Acrylic coupler)
    Name:  the-mount-e90-bmw-tablet.jpg
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    Couplers made of acrylic
    Name:  Tablet-coupler-pieces-together-e1443535662154.jpg
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Size:  65.0 KB

    The new (home made) pcbs for the idrive
    Name:  Idrive-e90-bmw-pcb-e1443535651730.jpg
Views: 601
Size:  87.7 KB

    The OTG PCB
    Name:  usb-otg-e90-bmw-tablet.jpg
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Size:  79.1 KB

    The USB Keyboard PCB
    Name:  the-usb-keybaord-pcb-e90-bmw-tablet.jpg
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Size:  90.2 KB

    The Idrive controller fitted and working
    Name:  Final-Foto-tablet-car-e1443535630740.jpg
Views: 601
Size:  95.6 KB

    The Xperia coupled and working
    Name:  Final-Foto-tablet-car-e90-2-e1443535530461.jpg
Views: 644
Size:  94.1 KB
    Last edited by marroguk; 09-30-2015 at 04:47 AM.

  2. #2
    Raw Wave SNOtwistR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Keswick,On Canada
    Welcome to the forum! You did a great job detailing your work. Very clean install Thanks for posting SNO

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by SNOtwistR View Post
    Welcome to the forum! You did a great job detailing your work. Very clean install Thanks for posting SNO
    Thank you very much.

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