Introduction: Adding a Computer to Your Car (CarPuter)

Picture of Adding a Computer to Your Car (CarPuter)


a iPhone / Facetime Doorbell security system!

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I did this project several years ago, and posted it on
I have learned alot about carputing and this instructable will be about both the install
and how its been using the carputer these last few years.

This is my 2007 Honda Element, before I attacked it with Soldering iron,
wire cutters, dremel tool and other weapons of mass media

Step 1: PowerPorts

Picture of PowerPorts

One of the most needed item in any road warrior's arsenal,  is powerports (or if your over 40 they where called "cigarette lighters") so I added two additional ones - one in the dashboard, and one in the center panel. this was actually a easy mod, with me just stealing power from a "only power when ignition is on" line from the car.

Step 2: USB Ports

Picture of USB Ports

The second most important item is USB ports, more and more devices need USB power
and all devices "Talk" to the computer via USB - So I added a Powered USB hub in my glovebox
with a 15' USB cord to my computer.

Step 3: The Front End / GPS System

Picture of The Front End / GPS System

When your driving, you need to keep your eyes on the ROAD.
not on a computer screen, so my front end had big descriptive icons that where easy
to touch, and access, with minimal eye time away from the road

The Buttons: (reading counter clockwise)
Photo library - For showing off pics of the build, etc to passengers
Mac control button (settings / other computer access)
Time and (green button) Wi-fi enabled and joined to a network
Movie player  - Awesome being able to throw a movie on while waiting for my mom shopping!
Car access system (diagnostic computer interface)
Available button for other features (like window control etc)

Step 4: Rear View Camera

Picture of Rear View Camera

I mounted a Back up camera in the rear, so when I put my car in reverse no matter what mode the screen is on, it went to the back up view.

Step 5: Power / Reset Obsession

Picture of Power / Reset Obsession

Ahh me being Obsessive again, This project is where I spent more time and more revisions till
I was satisfied. All this does is reset the computer if it crashes, and glows when the computer is
in "sleep" mode (it also doubled as a 'Security' light when the car was parked)

Step 6: The Wiring

Picture of The Wiring

Since I was running wires along side airbags and other passenger safety devices
I decided to let a professional do that wiring.
I built the harness beforehand, and then they wired it in for me.

Step 7: The Console and USB Cam

Picture of The Console and USB Cam

Here you can see the whole setup - the video is a live conversation I was having wi-fi with
my friend phil. and below I will describe the pictures in detail:

First Picture:
The front, you can see the mac mini mounted above in what was a place for glasses,
all the wiring sits behind it with a cutout access panel.
to the left of the rear view mirror is a USB webcam hooked in.
One of the ideas I had was to mount a frontview camera as well, and if there was a accident
automatically record the incident (trigger from the car system) but never got around to doing it.

The center console with a pop up touch screen, that was hidden when the car was parked
The computer is also out of the line of view, and when my car was robber last year
they didn't touch the computer. (prob didnt even see it)

Second Picture:
The remote on the left controls a Built in Garmin GPS system - which pumps the video
to the same screen, To have everything integrated I could not get a touchscreen unit
so to enter in destination data I use the remote.

Third picture:
This is the roof of the car, the back antenna is a radio :)
there us a wifi antenna as well as two GPS antennas (one on top, one in the front)
the wifi antenna on top added about 500' or extended range to my wifi
(enough time to find a open wifi, download mail / updates to my computer)
(this was before EVO cellular internet was a viable option)

Picture four:
Just the car, I love my car.

Step 8: Voice Navigation Demo

Picture of Voice Navigation Demo

Showing off a voice activated GPS I added to the system.
it was fun having the garmin and this system argue over who had the better directions
I'm being filmed with the built in webcam and recorded on t he mac.

Step 9: The Future

Picture of The Future

There is a line of portable laser projectors coming out,
and I am thinking of removing my screen and going with a heads up display and air mouse, or even something more eclectic

I know that most "upscale" cars have voice controlled navigation, and a entertainment console
but I did this 3 years before they where available.


Foaly7 (author)2010-03-28

You don't have to make it Mac, do you? I just don't like Mac, so I wanted to know.

lonwel (author)Foaly72010-04-25

u crazzy? mac all the way man, sorry i  had like half a dozen pc's go bad in 5 monts so i swear my mac now, they just work, but that's just me, if u like peeling your computer appart every fiftteen minutes to see why it's crashed by all means, i have to ask why you like pc's so much i'm just curious

Foaly7 (author)lonwel2010-04-26

I dont know how crazy i am, but you are insane. Macs suck, and I don't care who knows that I think that. Nobody can understand them execpt for superhuman freakish people descended from the first person to ever conceptualize the  Apple/Macintosh company. The software is poorly designed as far as GUI and the user format, and the hardware makes no sense at all. I wonder why the great Microsoft company ever rewrote the Microsoft Office software or Internet Explorer to be Mac-compatible.

M4industries (author)Foaly72010-06-13

Don't dig up the grave of the OS turf war. I use a mac pro for graphic design and video editing; trust me, it does not suck with 8 gigs of RAM. Now hear me out. I also use a PC at school for day to day work. My CNC router is a PC as well. I have realized that Macs don't crash as often as Windows systems. Just calm down please.

pfred2 (author)M4industries2012-06-25

Run Linux.

buddy4341 (author)pfred22015-05-28

I have a degree in computers and linux has way to much command line junk for the average person. I even have trouble getting linux to do what i want it to do sometimes and i have a degree in computers and have worked on computers for 20 plus yrs now. Yes linux is more stable. But if u have to spend 4 hrs looming up stuff just to get it to do what u want its not worth it. Thats why linux never got big.

mrjkuhl (author)buddy43412015-05-30

1) Distroes made for "average persons" come with everything set up out of the box, no need to use the terminal.

2) Your having trouble getting Linux "to do what I want it to do" sounds like unfamiliarity with the userland. Hint: in your command line, enter "man man."

3) Linux is actually very big. It currently controls every computer environment outside of the personal computer and game console systems, and every day Linux's prospects in those areas improves.

Foaly7 (author)M4industries2010-08-02

It's not a dead issue, the OS turf war, but I was also angry for having my sanity questioned, I just really like PCs, and now, awhile later, I can stand Macs, but for this particular project I just don't know why it can't be Linux.

thekid (author)M4industries2010-07-02

Linux all the way!!! more stable then mac and no virus infections. plus absolutely free!!

M4industries (author)thekid2010-07-03

What distro do you use?

bricabracwizard (author)Foaly72013-04-15

Two different systems and require different logic. I use both and they both have pros and cons but for each system you have to forget what you know on either. It's like comparing a drag racer to a speed boat - they are fantastic but require different skills.

zack247 (author)lonwel2011-04-22

i custom built my PC and its NEVER crashed.

'Nuff said.

buddy4341 (author)zack2472015-05-28

I have a pc i build 8 yrs ago and its never crashed once and i dont even use anti virus. But again im a computer tech and know how not to get a virus or overload the memory which is what causes 90 percent of computer crashes.

pfred2 (author)zack2472012-06-25

I had a PC burn up on me after 10 years of continuous operation. It had a dodgy power supply. For what a Mac costs I can buy 10 PCs though.

macgeek (author)Foaly72010-04-26

now people, lets not get into a pissing contest on mac / PC here.
there is a BE NICE rule in effect, Don't make me have to start deleting comments


moonsoup (author)macgeek2014-03-07

Lol... Hey all...

If you BUY an operating system then you are buying into the system that made it....If you get a PC with Windows then your work is owned by Mic if you buy a Macintosh then your work is owned by Mac. If you can't read and change the code you don't own it- you are owned by it.

( Ex:Just try to root your phone)

Linux is made by.. us. You and me... and the code is included.

moonsoup (author)moonsoup2014-03-07

And.... lol, I'm working on this with an Arduino setup....

frozenstone (author)2015-05-17

There are no instructions in this instructable. I find that humorous and cute.

Brendan802 (author)2015-02-05

How is this an instructable? There's nothing showing us how to do this... it's just some guy showing off. Please remove this.

macgeek (author)Brendan8022015-02-05

Brendan, Of course it's an instructable, I show details of how to build a computer into a car.. Show me YOUR instructable, and out do me, THEN I will remove it.


JimM18 (author)macgeek2015-05-13

HHMMM, I see Brendans point. This post is informing us what you did, not how you did it. Check out all the other instructables on this site. They give details as to how it is done, instructing us on the procedures to acomplish such a task. Saying I took it to a professional to get it done is no use to us...

jesterod. (author)2014-09-30

i have a question about the popup screen i have been wanting to put a computer in my car and i cant find a pop-up touchscreen than can be used on a computer the only one i found was the thermaltake one and it has been discontinued

ant_27485 (author)2014-01-20

how did you do the glowing power button?

You213 (author)2013-07-07

I don't think the front camera and crash idea would work very well because #1 The computer hard drive would be toast unless you had a solid state hard drive and #2 The camera would have to be recording 24/7 because it would be to late for it to start recording during the accident. I would say just don't crash at all(:

Crimson-Deity (author)2013-04-05

Honda Element, ofcourse! Thanks!

GS Gnaneshwar (author)2012-06-26

HI! Amazing project. keep it up.

eBookLover (author)2012-06-25

Greate Work.

How hard is it to remove the covering and bring it back? I think this will never look greate when i remove it in my car.

Adambowker98 (author)2012-06-21

Holy crap!!!!! That's the EXACT car I'm getting and I'm a mac geek too!!!! Awesome!

vov35 (author)2011-09-05

I'm not sure how you got GPS to work on this?

TheLandYacht (author)2011-08-04

So far, so good. I've had a 'puter in my ride for going on 13 years now, started way back in the day with a "repurposed" computer & monitor from home (set I'd just upgraded from). Talk about "kludge", this was before LCD's so a big honkin CRT monitor and a huge tower computer...and Bungee Cords EVERYWHERE!

Current setup: 2010 Ford E350 Passenger van:
The current iteration is 1 19" widescreen up front between the driver & passenger seat, directly below that are keyboard & mouse. Mounted to the driver door, placed so the hand falls naturally on it when resting on the door, is a "game pad" (think lots of buttons) with all the most used functions mapped to macros.
In the back are 2 more 19" monitors up high to show the same content as the front monitor, and a 17" touchscreen for the passengers to interact with the system (made, with the assistance of a friend, a touch-friendly interface).
The 'puter sits behind the driver's seat, "strapped" in place with a carrying strap that came with a LanBoy case from Antec years ago. Easy to remove for upgrades, I just "click" it back in place & plug everything back in.

The Dark Lord (author)2011-03-11

Dude you read that clockwise, not counter-clockwise

bendaniel (author)2010-02-08

Very cool but think you missed one major element of instructable projects - the instructions!

amishjim (author)bendaniel2010-02-08

 I agree. . . this was a "showable"..

hobomobo (author)amishjim2010-02-20

I second the motion.  Or third, as the case may be. 

macgeek (author)hobomobo2010-02-20

any more, and i'm going to get motion sickness.


1spartan95 (author)macgeek2011-01-01


four_eyes954 (author)macgeek2010-05-08



Foaly7 (author)2010-09-04

How would you make this touchscreen? I think that a touchscreen is all that this needs.

Squaretek Spenser (author)Foaly72010-11-06

simple. you can buy touch-sensetive flatscreens for PCs. its just a VGA port and a USB port. They come with software. But if you are running a Mac you may want to be sure theyre compatible.

Squaretek Spenser (author)2010-11-06

and the reason for not showing us where you put the CPU in the car is. . . ? Dude, there are a lot of places to put it, but its a good idea if you'd tell everyone where exactly you put the computer itself.

Mikey8567 (author)2010-02-07

Ok for those that are concidering putting a computer in the car or want a WiFi hot spot in the car (say you have a bussiness carpool pdas, laptops, email ect, or your a family that has kids with game machines) take a look at this!

No I don't work for them, I am doing a full fledged carputer install, custom dash board, custom couputer, touchscreens in dash 5.1 surround sound the works and wanted to find a perm mount wifi solution with out using those crappy MyFi's or the even worse usb plug in cell doggles. This thing is great and good priced,

It won't phade out like the doggles and is USA baised only (They have been talking about trying in other countries).

Just a thought. And yes I still run around with my laptop using Hot spots untill I get the project compleated.

Either way your setup looks good and nice choice on letting them run the wiring if your not sure, too many hack up wiring harness's and then ask "What happened"

And for a FrontEnd software (the carputer software) check out  thats what I'm running and it's a very nice software for touch screen based systems (you can still use a mouse if you like).

macgeek (author)Mikey85672010-02-09

The price of data, is the same as a MiFi or sprints new device,
the advantages of it being only for your car is very limited.

If I pay $60 a month for Mobile Data, I want it to follow me everywhere
not just in my car, SO I would opt more for a MiFi


Mikey8567 (author)macgeek2010-02-09

Yes price is about the same, But the battey is rechargable Lipo (would still have to set up something to the car, same as having it tethered to the car), The more people using the (Max 5 IP addys with MiFi) the faster it drains the battery. The MiFi is only ment as a stationary system (ment to set on a desk or a non moving car) where as the other is ment to be moble and won't suffer the signal loss as does the Mifi and the USB doggles do. The Autonetmobile in car system has up to a 500ft radius where as your limited to like a 100ft radius with Mifi. Autonetmobile was built for the moble applacation in mind not just a simple portable cell/wifi as the Mifi was. Mifi is a great lil gadget for those that want to set up a quick lil WiFi hot spot for a meeting or checking stocks of mail or such. It wasn't designed for the car and thats why I suggested it for the car (auto) applacation. Either way what ever works for you, I guess you could say MiFi is a personal Hotspot where as the Autonetmobile is a mobile WiFi hotspot. And with a Carputer in mind if some ones going to go thru the trouble (not a prob with me I like the idea of a computer in the car) of instaling a carputer (perm baised) then the Autonetmobile is a much better idea. Other wise what would be the point? You would just use MiFi or a Cell doggle and a laptop (thats not a carputer).

macgeek (author)Mikey85672010-02-09

My system is set up with WiFi war driving.
when it detects a open network, it logs in, gets a IP and downloads data.
if it loses connections, it picks up where it left off and Downloads again.
(think stop and go traffic, or a traffic light) - for Highway driving
rest stops, and traffic (where I would be more likely to read email, or downloaded data) - My sister has a USB (verizon) dongle and has been WiFi'ed connected
driving down from Upstate NY to NYC (her hubby drives, she surfs)

I am sure the Autonetmobile is more verbose, and is NEEDED in a fleet
or commercial environment. , But the average person...


menahunie (author)macgeek2010-09-15

True I do the same thing with my laptop and an external ant. war driving. As for install a computer in to the car did that also. Bought a used Police car computer with keyboard and lcd flat screen. popped in a pc card wifi and external ant. The main cpu is small; like two bricks side by side. Does the job fine since I am not intended it for gaming..

Mikey8567 (author)macgeek2010-02-09

No going to get into an match about which one is better, it's personal choice, This product was not designed for the FLEET OR COMMERCIAL ENVIROMENT it was designed for the general public. Go look a tthe reviews, you'll see those that had both and for their resons prefered th Autonet, the ones that didn't like it complained about either the limited amount of data per month (there is no carrier nor product that offers unlimited datd a month for $59, Verison offered but changed it to the same), and other like you say it's mot mobile. Some said it wasn't fast enough, well it's not a hard line in your house and it's not designed for gaming or streaming of movies (neither is Mifi or doggle, it eats up your allowed data per month). Don't bother with the reviews that are 2yrs old either, the system has been in use for quite a while and things have changed. And again I'll say this "It's designed for the CAR", it's not ment to be taken out and put in your pocket and taken into the office.Thats what the MiFi's are for. So the size and portablility is a moot point. I just say weigh your choices, look at what you want out of a product and choose the product that works best for you. Oh yea again Review Each Product and make your own choice. And the War Driving is fine if your dealing with loss connections, Autonet is designed to stop that so you don't have to run special sotfware to make up for the lost connections due to other products.

Eaither way don't listen to either one of us, use your own abliity to check each product out and decide for yourself.

The End

Mikey8567 (author)Mikey85672010-02-09

BTW kool idea on the wifi bumper sticker.

beehard44 (author)macgeek2010-02-11

ya would be more lucky in the Philippines with the USB dongle that uses the cell network, Php 10 for every 30 minutes, thats about .20 dollars per 30 mins. Text messaging costs about .02dollars per message.That is good news, but you will have a hard time surviving on the road. If you do survive, good luck your unit does not get stolen when you park.........

Good luck!

bdries (author)2010-05-25

 ZZ top !!

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