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Nexus 7 Android Tablet as my CarPC

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Old 04-02-2014, 01:08 PM
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Nexus 7 Android Tablet as my CarPC

With all the fuss about Apple CarPlay, I thought about what I truly needed for in-car entertainment, what I needed to be shown to me while driving and whether touching a screen is the best way to interact with the entertainment setup on my 2008 W204. Turns out that my Android tablet (Nexus 7 2013 LTE) and its plethora of apps has already taken over most of the functions I require on my car dashboard. For instance, I use Google Maps for navigation, Spotify for music, Pocket Cast for podcasts and Automatic app with its companion hardware OBD2 dongle for tracking my trips, fuel usage and driving patterns. By pairing my tablet to a Bluetooth audio receiver, which in turn plugs into the Aux port in the glove compartment, I was pretty satisfied with my setup, with the exception of the following:
  1. I tried mounting the tablet to the windscreen with a 7" Arkon mount. It works pretty well but having a 7" tablet blocking your view wasn't the safest option available.
  2. Poking at the screen with my fingers and aiming for those tiny music control buttons for Spotify to control the tracks was a rather awful experience, not to mention the potential danger of doing so while driving.
  3. When listening to Spotify, I like to know the song that's currently playing. Keeping the screen on would be great but also a sure-fire way to kill the battery. However, keeping the screen off and pressing the power button on the tablet every time a new song comes on sounded pretty hazardous as well.
Mounting the Tablet
So I started exploring new ways to mount my tablet on the dashboard, where it wouldn't block my view when driving. There are various projects that dealt with installing a tablet permanently into the dash, but those weren't suitable for me because I actually do want to use my tablet when I'm not in my car. Thankfully, I came across another forum thread here https://mbworld.org/forums/c-class-w...-solution.html , which felt like an ideal mounting solution for me. Inspired by that thread, I ordered bunch of adhesive black rubber feet and pasted them along the screen recess of my W204. When that was done, I could slot in my tablet and it fit snugly between the rubber feet! Granted, the additional thickness of a TPU casing helped to increase the width of the tablet, making it a more suitable fit. In fact, as a bonus, I could still close the screen lid when not in use!

Remote-controlling the Tablet
Next, I had to find a better way to control the audio playback for songs and podcasts. Of course the best way would be direct integration with the steering wheel, but the lowly Audio 20 on my W204 had no such option. I certainly wasn't going to fork out several grand to get COMAND and Media Interface Plus installed just for the steering wheel controls. So I did a little more reading up and voila, I found this Satechi Bluetooth Multimedia Remote control http://www.satechi.net/index.php/blu...remote-control that did everything I wanted! It could play, pause, skip forward/backwards, turn volume up/down and even had a Home button that brought me to the home screen. With a simple button layout, I could also easily press a button without taking my eyes off the road. I found a nice little spot on the armrest where I could easily access while driving and mounted it using velcro strips. With velcro, I could easily remove the remote and pass it to a passenger to act as the DJ too!

Displaying Song Information and other Notifications
Lastly, with the tablet taking the place of my Audio 20 screen, it had to show me the information I require whenever it becomes available. To do so, I placed a widget called NiLS Notifications https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...icationswidget on my homescreen that would list incoming notifications and even turn on the screen for a short period of time every time a notification came in. This worked for track changes in Spotify/Pocket Cast too. One problem encountered was that Android would show a lockscreen each time the tablet wakes and require me to unlock the screen before showing me the homescreen. Using a combination of apps (Tasker https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ndroid.taskerm and Secure Settings plugin https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ettings.plugin), I was able to set my tablet to automatically disable the lockscreen in the car, thereby displaying the homescreen straightaway . The final piece of this puzzle was to get SMS notifications and voice call information from my phone to show on the tablet. Again, there's an app that does so called MightyText https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...=com.texty.sms which forwards all SMS and voice call notifications to the tablet.

Voice Control
[Update: 9 April 2014]I just realized that voice control for some tasks can be performed pretty easily with my setup. With the Google Now Launcher https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...droid.launcher installed on my Nexus 7, I could activate voice control by simply saying "OK Google". This only works when the screen turned on and positioned at the home screen, which can be done easily using the Home screen button on my Satechi remote. I tried saying "OK Google. Navigate to office" earlier today and it worked like a charm! Unfortunately, since the Nexus 7 doesn't have built-in telephony, I couldn't make a call or send texts using voice commands. Nevertheless, a full list of Google Voice Actions can be found here: https://support.google.com/websearch.../2842392?hl=en Some examples are launching an app, playing songs, adding reminders, events, etc. Take that, Siri!

And that's it! Although I'm pretty satisfied with my current setup for now, suggestions on how to improve it further are certainly welcome!
Attached Thumbnails
Nexus 7 Android Tablet as my CarPC-img_0003.jpg   Nexus 7 Android Tablet as my CarPC-img_0004.jpg   Nexus 7 Android Tablet as my CarPC-img_0005.jpg   Nexus 7 Android Tablet as my CarPC-screenshot_2014-04-01-20-01-35.png  

Last edited by speedyg0nz; 04-14-2014 at 12:56 AM.
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Old 04-02-2014, 02:45 PM
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This is a great solution you have. I attempted this a few months ago and had no success due to the safety hazards you mentioned. But now that I see your workarounds, I may pursue the idea again. Thanks for your contribution!
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Old 04-02-2014, 03:22 PM
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P.S. You need to clean your car

But that's a pretty smart setup. Good job.
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Old 04-02-2014, 06:08 PM
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I like the setup
I might steel it and do it on my car

Which tablets would work for this set up length wise?
And You said that you have audio20 on your car
So how are you streaming the music?

And is it eligal to play a music video while driving?

Thanks

Last edited by fani_l; 04-02-2014 at 06:12 PM.
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Andriy242 View Post
P.S. You need to clean your car

But that's a pretty smart setup. Good job.
I know! But between the car and a 14 month old boy, the car has unfortunately been neglected in this aspect.

Originally Posted by fani_l View Post
I like the setup
I might steel it and do it on my car

Which tablets would work for this set up length wise?
And You said that you have audio20 on your car
So how are you streaming the music?

And is it eligal to play a music video while driving?

Thanks
I only tried this with the 2013 Nexus 7. I think it looks great since there are no additional logos and branding on the front face that would take away the clean look of the setup. However, a quick way to check if other setups work is simply to measure the length available in the screen recess and check against your own tablet.

As for music streaming, I'm using a bluetooth receiver connected to the Aux port in the glove compartment. There are hundreds of such receivers in the market so you it wouldn't be hard to find one.

As for whether it's illegal to play music video, it'll really depend on where you stay. I don't stay in North America so I can't comment on that.

Last edited by speedyg0nz; 04-02-2014 at 07:05 PM.
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Old 04-07-2014, 06:43 AM
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How do you power it?
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Old 04-07-2014, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Wawatusi View Post
How do you power it?
Running only on battery. Since my screen only comes on when a notification is received or when using Google Maps for navigation (pretty rare in my case), the battery drain is pretty low. Coupled with the large battery capacity of a tablet, I'm able to get an entire day's worth of usage without problems.
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Old 04-07-2014, 06:59 AM
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OK. o was using a folding case glued to itself and ran power into the glovebox but it looked messy.

I went back to a vent mount and the iPhone. I have the screen running all the time with the waze app which is phenomenal for alerting you to radar traps, traffic etc.

I struggled with mounting forever! The nubs are an ingenius idea.
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