Carputer with Raspberry Pi

Yet another project !

I was tired of listening to the local radio on my car, I wanted my own music. So in that case you have 2 possibilities: either you buy an other system or you build yourself a super carputer ! Needless to say that I chose the second option.


My carputer

In this article I am going to describe the different choices I made to build it, but this is not going to be step by step tutorial to build yours.


Basic features

I wanted this computer to play my music (from my usb key) but also radio. In order to do this I used the latest Raspberry Pi 3.

I needed a soundcard to connect to my car’s speakers, I decided to use the X400 Expansion Board. Why ? Because it is compatible with the latest Raspberry and can support a lot of different input voltage.

I bought it on banggood (few weeks for shipping but very low price) : link to the product.

The screen

Instead of buying a big expensive touchscreen for the raspberry pi I decided to take an other approach. I used a big expensive touchscreen that I already had : my tablet. Using WiFi to communicate with the raspberry this gives a lot of advantages : this frees the raspberry pi in terms of ressources (no need for any graphical interface on the Pi), the “screen” can be taken away (less risk of theft).

The radio

In order to listen to the radio, I used a RTL SDR. The hardest part was to a way to connect it to my car antenna. The socket on my car was “Fakra” and I found no connector Fakra to MCX (the connector on the SDR). I finally found a way by using 2 adapters : Fakra -> SMA -> MCX.


My SDR module plugged to the antenna of my car

Not only is the SDR module cheap, but it can also receive a lot of type of frequency. For now I can only listen to FM radio (software used SoftFM). But in the future and I also want to listen to airband of course !

Links :


Powering the Pi with the car is that as easy as you think. Indeed the voltage from the battery is not a constant 12V. Fortunately the X400 takes care of that without any problem because it can handle voltage from 6 to 24V.

On a lot of cars you have two wires : one for permanent +12 and an other one active only when the engine is turning. This wasn’t the case on my Peugeot 207. I simply made a switch that I use to switch on the Pi and switch it off (only when i’ve halted it from the tablet).


The fuse box on my car

Be caution when you connect your wires, if you don’t want to become Claude François I recommend you to remove the appropriate fuse from your fuse box.


The Raspberry Pi is configured as if it was a web server (apache2, php5 …). It is set as a wifi hotspot (this link might help you to configure it properly).

So my tablet is simply connecting to a local website. Request are sent using ajax (Jquery makes the task easy).

I use moc as my music player.

This is what the interface looks like on the tablet


Screenshot on the interface

The map displays traffic in real time, and of course as I love and respect the law it does not show the location of automatic radars.

The map only works when connected to Internet, that’s why I plan to add a 3g stick to the Pi.

I also plan to try to access to the CAN network in order to have wheel command (but that seems to be a hard job to do). Update : done here

To be continued …

More about this project :

How I added steering wheel commands

29 thoughts on “Carputer with Raspberry Pi

      • Yes I considered OBD, I even bought an USB ELM327 that isn’t working so I need to buy an other one if I want to experiment with it.
        However I think that I will maybe use directly a CAN bus reader in order to get wheel commands (because I don’t think that I can get them from the OBD protocol …)


    • The html/php code itself is relatively simple but the configuration behind it is more complex (apache configuration, software installed etc …).
      So if I want to publish the source code it need to upload the whole content for the SD card I guess …


      • Hello, I can if you want give you the php code, but I would rather advise you to create your own. Mine is very ugly and has a lot of quick fixes so I think that you will spend less time creating your own that fixing mine.
        However if you want it as an “inspiration” I can still send it you by mail 😉


  1. Hi Nice Projects, i really interested on how you use table for screen.

    at most project i seen, it works like what you told above, raspberry pi will be as web server, and table will access it using web browser.

    but at your video, i don;t think you use browser (isn’t it?), so i curious how do you did it?


  2. Dmitrii Zuev says:

    Nice post,
    I create similar system at this time.
    I use STM32 for chating with car and other devices:
    OBD II (CANbus, J1850 bus)
    Car’s Analog inputs (doors, hand brake and ect)
    Bluetooth, GPS, Radio (FM+DAB)
    Microcontoller gathers together all signal and sends it to Windows PC’s COM-port.
    Now, I want to use Raspberry, but it has very long time for wake up. How much it in your system?


  3. s7ntax says:

    Nice project, I have planned to create a similar on board computer to run a smb server to ipads and also smb music library to my iphone/car stereo. The one issue I have imagined is getting clean power to the pi and an external drive when starting the car. When I turn the ignition the radio cuts off for a few seconds. How did you work around this issue with your car?


    • Hello,
      The ignition of the car is usually taking of lot of current so there is a voltage drop.
      In my case I think that the suptronic card does a good job by regulating (but I also think to my car gives a good power too 😉 ).


  4. Oliver Hill says:

    Hi Ben,

    Fantastic project!

    I’d be really interested in featuring your ‘Carputer’ in an upcoming issue of Linux User & Developer Magazine. Do you perhaps have an email or Twitter account that I could send you a message on?

    Hopefully it’s something you’d be interested in doing!

    Many thanks,
    Oliver Hill

    Features Editor @ Linux User & Dev Magazine
    Twitter: @BlahBlahOli


  5. mgvarley says:

    Hi Ben, great article, I’m following this to hook my rpi3 to my camper van and have bought the x400 which arrived today from china. I have it powered in the house at the moment on a universal power adaptor, do you have more details on how you hooked this up to the car and what you needed (if anything) for this? I am in France so feel free to respond in french or recommend any french stores. Thanks!


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