In its simplest form, it is a computer in your car. There are of course issues with power, cooling, usability, and functionality but those things are being addressed everyday. For more information around putting a computer in your car, click here.
But why a computer in the car?
For me, the biggest reason is the ability to customize. I can make the system do anything I want in any way I want. Many systems you buy today from the dealer or from aftermarket outfits can do some of the things a CarPC can do; navigation, XM Radio, Bluetooth phone, and DVDs. But you are limited by the way that they want you to use it, how it works, and their cost. Also, not always a good way of upgrading. My CarPC has all of this and more. I am using the Infill G4 customized by mp3Car.com and a front end software package called Streetdeck. This works well for me mostly because it has a very robust software development kit (SDK). This allows me to make my CarPC do anything I want with a little nudging. But there are many other projects like Centrafuse and Roadrunner.
Many systems you buy today for your car from the dealer or from aftermarket outfits can do some of the things a CarPC can do. Navigation is very common that gives the driver turn by turn directions with visual and audible prompts. Also you can see the route in 2D and simulated 3D views. Where the CarPC shines is when you connect it to the Internet through my Bluetooth-enabled mobile.
Now, the CarPC can search the points of interest (POIs) in Google and Microsoft Live Local and not just the POIs included in the device. Also, you can get Google Earth-like satellite route images right on the screen.
Like most cars since the 90s, the CarPC can play audio CDs and MP3 CDs. And like some cars, it can also play DVDs. But, why limit to a small library that you can carry on a disk when I can access my entire digital library downloaded from my media centers. This is 15,000 songs but also recorded TV shows, Divx movies, and photos on the road with me. This media is also sync’d up over wirelessly before I leave the garage.
Broadcast and Satellite Radio
Like any other car, I can listen to local AM and FM radio and in addition also listen to XM Radio. The twist is that I can record XM Radio like TiVo.
Bluetooth support for phone conversations are almost ready. Also, I would like to add Vehicle Diagnostics to monitor the car and add cameras like night vision and infrared that may continuously record. A backup camera is also a possibility. With a computer in the car, the possibilities are almost endless. Anything you can do at home on your PC, I can do in the car. The question is always what should you do in the car and what is feasible. The last thing to get to is a create a weird freaky Homer car.
Some grainy pictures of my installation by the guys over at Reality Custom Designs in Tempe, AZ. I told them that I wanted it to look stock and they were able to wrap vinyl to match the grain. A great idea.