Car PC Project Update – 12/02/2009

Between the honeymoon, jury duty, Thanksgiving weekend, and an overnight Christmas tree excursion, life has been pretty busy as of late.  We took the Expedition to Flagstaff the day after Thanksgiving, and so I spent a fair amount of the day in the garage on Thanksgiving getting an audio amplifier installed so that the family would have some music for the trip.  Originally I had planned on installing the amp under the passenger seat, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough space and I ended up doing the install in the center console stacked on top of the car computer.  I used 1” foam spacers and industrial strength Velcro to ensure a stable installation.  The spacers do a good job of ensuring that air flows evenly around both the amp and the car PC, and the sensors in the PC didn’t show any noticeable change in temperature during the road trip.

Before the weekend trip, and before the honeymoon for that matter, I had also managed to get the sonar sensor installed into the front grill.  It wasn’t particularly note-worthy, however, because for some reason it’s not working.  Most likely a break in the wire, but I haven’t come back to it yet to determine what the root cause is.  At any rate, I’ve put some pictures below of both the sonar sensor and the audio amplifier that are now installed in the Expedition.

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Amp Installed in Center Console
Down and dirty video app
Sonar / Depth sensor installed in front grill

Sunday evening I also spent some time with the tin snips and made a mounting chassis for the 15” touch screen display, and then lined the chassis with industrial strength Velcro.  I had to stop short of applying the opposite Velcro pieces to the monitor, because I didn’t have any foam tape to serve as spacers in places along the monitor back.  Still determined to make some noticeable progress, I switched focus to moving the A/C controls from the dash down and into the back wall of the ‘bucket’ area of the center console normally used to hold keys and misc items while driving.  Like most things, however, this approach was unfeasible because the A/C controller was physically larger than the area available.  With tin snips still at the ready, I decided to fashion a full replacement for that ‘bucket’ area that would hold not only the A/C controls but also a 4-port USB hub as well.  It’s laughable to think of how many times I had already caught myself saying “my car is really lacking in USB ports”.

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Monitor placed into mount
Sheet metal outline
Relocated A/C and USB

As soon as I can find a nice rubberized material to cover the sheet metal around the A/C controller and USB this will look nice and clean.  Overall though, I’d say there has been some good ground made on the car and the way has been paved to get that screen finally installed.  If I can muster up some bravery (and some free time) this weekend then I should be in a good place to take a real crack at it.  In the mean time, I have something at least working (I’ve temporarily borrowed the Mimo touch screen monitor from my desk to give me a small UI).

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