Introduction: Repurpose Old IPad As a Hands-Free Car Assistant

About: I'm a life-hacking reuse junkie who loves to create, even if all I'm making is a mess. I love hammers and rocks and history and hand planes. I hugged trees before it was cool but can still operate a chainsaw. …

Reuse is my game, so when I got an iPad Pro for my birthday this year, I started thinking right away about the fate of my older and perfectly functional iPad (4th generation). Eventually it'll end up donated, but I do my donating on a direct basis and haven't yet identified its next owner, so until I do...

What I landed on was a dedicated assistant for my ride. It's an F150 with Ford SYNC, an integrated communication and entertainment system that doesn't seem to do either of those things. It will, however, connect my device to the truck's audio system via Bluetooth.

SYNC can only understand a few requests, most of which involve making or receiving calls. (Yawn.) My iPad, on the other hand, can understand quite a few. Using a crazy-easy dash mount, Bluetooth, HeySiri, and a little collection of apps I curated especially for their imagined use on the road, I started putting my assistant to work. Hands free. Just in time for the stricter Distracted Driving laws to take effect here in the lovely state of Washington.

Step 1: Mount the Tablet

At first, I wasn't sure how I was going to mount the iPad in the truck. I considered a stand anchored in the cup holder, or maybe an arm bolted to the seat. When I took the tablet out to survey my options, the answer became obvious. The tray on top of the dash was the perfect size to accommodate the outer flap of my case (a Belkin Dot Folio cover I had picked up at a thrift store for $1.99). The rest is just Velcro.

Installation consisted of taking out the rubber tray insert, placing 4 strips of adhesive-back hook tape in the tray bottom, and sticking the loop tape on my iPad cover in the corresponding spots. I then inserted my iPad and flopped it over into position. It was such a simple solution that I was sure it wouldn't work, but so far it's holding up perfectly. It even stood up to the test of being heated up multiple times, parked in the hot sun.

Step 2: Get Connected, Not Distracted

Since this is to be a car dedicated unit, I erased my iPad data and settings for a fresh start and different set of apps. I use some native preloaded apps like Podcasts, Messages, Phone, Mail, Music, Maps.

The additional apps I downloaded are:

  • Spotify
  • Messenger
  • Waze
  • TuneIn Radio
  • 5-0 Radio (police scanner)

The thing that makes this setup hit for me is "Hey Siri". He (or she, depending on your Siri settings) is always listening, and perks up whenever you say "Hey Siri" to hear your request.

To enable Hey Siri, go to Settings-Siri and turn on "Allow 'Hey Siri'".

The only thing left to do is enable Bluetooth in iPad settings and connect to the onboard Bluetooth. If you have SYNC and set up the connection as primary, it will automatically connect whenever the vehicle is turned on.

That's it, we're ready to roll! Look Ma! No hands!

Bluetooth Challenge

Runner Up in the
Bluetooth Challenge

Audio Contest 2017

Participated in the
Audio Contest 2017

Automation Contest 2017

Participated in the
Automation Contest 2017