Adding a Computer to Your Car (CarPuter)




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[Featured in the February 7th Newsletter!]

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

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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    155 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago

    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.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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


    Reply 4 years ago

    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.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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



    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    4 years ago on Introduction

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


    4 years ago on Introduction

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

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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.



    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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...


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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


    6 years ago on Step 7

    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(: