Samsung Android Tablet Tab 3 10.1 Embedded into Jeep Wrangler TJ Dashboard

by john threat on September 25, 2013

The Big Idea:

I got a chance to ride around the Tesla which blew me away. It’s like a iPad controlled giant battery on wheels. Well, unfortunately Tesla doesn’t make a 4×4 yet. My first thought was to get a junked Tesla and rip the dashboard and transplant it into my 97′ Jeep TJ Wrangler.

Then inspiration hit.

Samsung makes the best Android tablets out – why not  grab a giant Samsung tablet  and embedded it to experience the future in automotive computing.IMAG0687

Hard Warez:

Here is what I used

Samsung Android TAB 3 10.1 : I snarfed this from BestBuy with a extended one year all inclusive warranty just in case something went wrong.
PLX Devices Bluetooth ODB II Scanner : If you want to use Torque for real time operating data from your car, you’ll want this.
Startech Right Angle Micro USB cable : To neatly connect it to the inverter.
Right Angle 1/8″ Mini-Pin Audio Adapter: To neatly connect the audio out from the tablet to the amp/speakers in the vehicle.
Speakercraft Automatic A/B Line Switch:  Optional: If you want to run the audio from the tablet over your existing speaker and you have a one line amp.
Dremel : The magic device to cut into the dash neatly . They should teach kids how to use a rotary tool in school to stimulate the imagination.

The Execution:

I took the Dash Bezel off and to make room in a Jeep, I had to remove the climate control – I rarely use it. That might not work for everyone – and I also lose windshield defrosting abilities. Oh well, that’s what my hand is for. I used the dremel to cut in deep notches into two existing plastic posts that hold the dash bezel in place.

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I took a second to clean up the wires and clean it off from burning man. Then easy as pie, the Samsung tablet slid right in. The bezel from the Empeg/Riocar in-dash Linux player also helped keep the Samsung Tablet nice and snug.

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Then I threw in the right Angle Micro USB at the bottom to prevent the stock micro USB from getting bent and destroying the power charging port. I keep a 1500 watt inverter with USB ports behind the dashboard, so AC power wasn’t far. If you don’t have an inverter, you may have to get a car charger (which I would recommend cutting and tying directly to the prongs for the cigarette lights behind the dash).IMAG0708

Then I plugged in the right angle audio mini-pin so it would be flush with the tablet and ran that wire to the amp. You can also run it to the auxiliary input to your head unit, but I prefer having the Google map directions to play over the music from the head unit)

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The Final step was the cut the Bezel. Now I am not a Dremel expert, but the next time I cut it – I know better how to tackle it. I pretty much cut off all the cross bars haphazardly, which is fine, to be able to access the hardware buttons. Next time I’ll do it neat and then reattach the crossbars for a better stock look – or I’ll make some on the 3d Printer when I get a chance.

A side bonus is that if you press down on the plastic bezel at the top, it will trigger the power button and volume buttons!

The functionality is so amazing and a Jeep is the one car where it looks better when things are hacked together. It still looks pretty nice and stock except for close up. I placed the bezel on, and I can see the whole screen from any angle. The forward firing camera is available for Skype, Google Hangout, Vine and Photos and Videos with the native Android app.IMAG0999

To really enjoy this setup you will need to be able to tether the Tablet to a WIFI source. They unfortunately don’t readily sell a SIM card version – but what I did was to wire in a WIFI hotspot from my mobile carrier into the vehicle. It wasn’t what I wanted as I had to run another power cord to keep it powered, but the upside is that any device I have near I can use the internet without touching the tablet – and in a pinch – I can take the WiFi from out the dash fast for other purposes where as the tablet isn’t so easy to extract.

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By the way, the forward firing camera and microphone work 100% and very well. I can do voice searches and talk to people while driving with the top down at local road speed (10-40MPH).

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For the final step – I connected the PLX Devices Bluetooth ODBII scanner under the dash in the speaker well. It draws power from the ODBII port luckily. It works well, but it does leave a cool red glowing going beneath the dash and obviously this is going to be a miniature draw off the battery if left sitting forever.

Dashboard Warez:

I haven’t checked other peoples lists yet, but a list of awesome in-dash car apps list is probably needed. Here is a list of apps i recommend that really worked awesomely me so far:

Torque: The Ultimate car app. You can run gauges of all types while you drive for real time and historical data. It’s truly amazing for those of us who love numbers and data – and then use it to adjust our equipment. Reads your ODB II info and works with your GPS as well to do cool stuff. Skip the free version and go right to the paid version – you’ll definitely want it.

Google Now: This is the new tool that pretty much acts like an amazing personal assistant. I love it. It calculates how long it’ll take to get home and to work, track airplane flights, yours and people coming to see you, and packages for you, (you can see my Carhartt Long sleeve shirt is on it’s way) track your meetings and more. It’s still evolving but I am already hooked and keep it up on the front screen and check the full screen version often.

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Google Maps: Big Daddy! The best map and turn by turn navigation on the map with satellite terrain – and it works all over the place – from the streets of L.A. to deep into Death Valley – and it remembers your favorite and recent searches for quick returns to places. Drop a pin in a place you want to explore and it will get you there. The downsides is that is should be easier to save a place permanently and you should be able to swap what side the navigation arrow goes on.

My Tracks: Awesome app that tracks a line on Google map for you – so even if you lose a signal you can find your way back. You can also share the track on social networks or just keep a running tab where you have been yourself by easily dropping pins. It includes all types of metadata like speed and altitude on your trip as well. Then you can share your track or save it for later!

Gmail: Short description: Awesome email client and easy to read and navigate on the tablet. Beautiful and now if someone is taking too long to come back to the car, who cares! I’m doing business! Of course what is nice is addresses and contact info and other links Google processes open the corresponding apps nicely (maps, calendar, etc)

Tablet Talk: Awesome app that lets the text messages from your phone appear on the tablet. You can also send texts back to them from the Dashboard now! It’s also shows if someone calls and you can take the call as well! This is really awesome tooling around town or hooking up with friends, or picking someone up from the airport by being able to see the text as you are driving. You can set it to reconnect automatically as soon as you get in the car.

GoPro: Come on – connect to exterior mounted gopros? Awesome. Backup camera? Record crazy stuff at will without getting out of the car? Change settings on the fly from the car on all the cameras? A Must have for the Go Pro Hero 2 and 3. I’m totally in love with this – the only issue now is that you have to jump onto the cameras wifi , which means no internet- awww.IMAG1399

Zello: This is a walkie talkie push-to-talk application. You have to make an account, but it allows you to sort of radio to your car without making a phone call or text. You’ll still need a signal . but it allows me to pretend my Jeep can talk when I am not standing near it. It scares the stuffing out of people. It’s also good for co-ordinating movements with people with picking them up without worrying about making a phone call or holding a phone up while driving. I’m into this.

Skype: Oh yeah, now you can skype (or google hangout) with people while driving or parked. I recommend parked – but it def kinda awesome to connect to people from the drivers seat to catch up or do a quick conference call for work.

DS Video and Other Synology Apps: If you have a Synology NAS these apps let you connect with your home server to pull up media and documents. Stream movies and music to your dashboard from home, or maybe you need that PDF of a report to mail to someone? Just to turn it up, there is DS Download which lets you add torrents in the field, so basically – well you can watch it when you get home.

Pandora: I know some people like other services, but I find i discover the most amazing arcane records on Pandora. One issue is that their navigation on android tablets is t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e . The plus side is I am considering a paid subscription because getting video ads while driving and blasting music is jarring and eating up bandwidth.

Yelp: Come on, Yelp has made itself indispensable to quickly find things like Jamba Juices or a good sushi spot. It does quite a bit more – and using Monocole on the dash works better than when walking.
Voice Search: Yup! Works well – both google and samsung voice search. I lean toward using google voice search more just because those are the apps I am using the most.

Camera: Come on, taking action shots and videos of all your friends while driving and having fun is awesome. You can even voice trigger the photos if you like, by saying things like Cheese! , Play with the settings, there are plenty. The default camera app is really well thought out and mega fun from the drivers seat! A new dimension in selfies.camera

Phone Fusion Visual Voicemail Plus: I favor this – for some reason – everyone kept me away from Google Voice. Well I use this to visually see a list of my voice mails and play them from the dashboard. I can forward them via email and save the .wav file to stop you from suing me later. You can have them transcribed for a price too – which I am considering paying for.

Pulse: My personal preference for a visual style newsreader. Easy to add news sources. Awesome in every way and as widgets for easy reading on the home screen. Highly recommended

Music Visualizer: Awesome large screen visualization, works with music players on the tablet, as well as taking input from the microphone.

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Challenges and Errors:

Heat: Right now I’m driving thru the desert a lot, and it looks like it survived sustained 120+ degrees heat multiple times. It did give me warnings galore about temperature and charging. I realize heat can kill or degrade the systems in the tablet, and its taking massive heat from the firewall and whatever still seeps thru the air ducts. I’ll have to figure that one out. It doesn’t complain till its over 110 degrees in the air and the jeep is running for a while.

Security: Come on, this is probably begging for someone to steal it, at the same time – dash board screens are so prevalent, it doesn’t really look special from a distance.  I turn the screen off when I leave. What I’d like to do is get a 3D plastic print of a black door to cover the screen when I leave the car unattended for a long time in a public place. Also – if anyone has ideas how I can lock it to the dash more securely , please send your suggestions. So far though – so good!

App configuration: Some apps don’t play well in forced landscape. Very few but they are out there. Some have terrible navigation , like Pandora. Some apps still could use more configuration options (like it would be nice to swap what side the turn directions go in Google Maps/Navigation for instance)

Danger:  Lets  face it, with all this stuff at your finger tips – you might be tempted as a driver to use stuff other than maps or music visualization while driving. So here is a disclaimer – of course if you choose to do this, this is of your own accord. You have to pay attention to the road when driving. Flashing your eyes at a incoming email or text title on the screen at a long red light is one thing. Engaging in reading and writing emails and text at 60mph or more is dangerous and irresponsible.

Brown Color: The Samsung Tab if you go that route only comes in White and Brown. I chose Brown. I wanted black – color me disappoint. I am trying to weigh my options for covering the brown bezel on it with black without covering the camera. You don’t notice it at night but in sunlight, it’s brown. I’ve forgotten it’s brown over time.

Start From USB: I am already on push button start, but what If I could start the car from the USB port? Or from the Wifi network? Totally doable. I have to get on it.

 

Well let me know what you think — I’ll answer your email as soon as I park.

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