Post date: Jan 13, 2014 5:46:27 PM

As a first post, I will describe the motivation for this work.

Since I was little I have been fascinated by the field of home automation, and have always wanted to design my own system to control the security, lighting, entertainment (video/audio/music), and HVAC where I live. As an extension of this desire, I have always dreamed of having a "car computer" that is networked to my house. Ideally, it would be able to control the stereo system of the car, keep a synced copy of my music library, and collect and display some basic information about the car's status (speed, mileage, engine sensors, etc).

In many ways, such car computers already exist -- commodity cell phones and tablets are now equipped with large, high-resolution touchscreens, GPS antennas, and mobile broadband Internet connectivity. You can even purchase devices to interface with a car's OBD-II diagnostic port or stream music to a stereo over a bluetooth connection. Combined with services like Spotify, you can literally have most of the world's music available in your car at the touch of a screen.

That being said, it's always more fun to build something yourself! Now that I have recently purchased a car I intend to keep for a long time (my 2007 Honda Civic Ex), I want to take a stab at this. I think this car is ideally suited to the project. While it has many luxury features (power mirrors, sunroof, remote lock/unlock), it still has a basic stereo system and instrument cluster. I really prefer these traditional controls to the trend of cars moving to touchscreen-only interfaces, although it makes sense as lcd screen prices have dropped significantly, and newer laws requiring backup cameras make them a necessity. I have also found that the software controlling these screens (even Honda on the new Civics and Accords) is still very slow, non-user friendly, and in many cases distracting to a driver.

I have started "upgrading" the car by adding both a bluetooth (for calls) and iPod interface to the stereo system. USA-SPEC makes some great products specifically designed for Honda stereos. In particular, the iPod interface box interfaces with the stereo as an "XM Radio." This means that it can control the iPod using the steering wheel and stereo back/forward controls and display track and artist information on the stock stereo screen.

The goal of this project is NOT to convert my car into some kind of geeky science lab. Knowing my own mechanical skills, I could never design/build a screen or buttons that would match the quality or integration of what already exists in the car. Instead, I plan on augmenting the capabilities of the car's existing radio while maintaining a "stock" and sophisticated look and feel. The car will look normal, but have expanded capabilities.

The goal of this project is to make a Raspberry Pi clone of an iPod, called a piPod. It will connect to the stereo and be fully powered by a standard iPod dock cable, implement the iPod's serial protocol for displaying song information and changing tracks, and be able to load and sync music on to an external hard drive of arbitrary size via WiFi.