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Everything You Need To Know To Integrate Your Raspberry Pi Into Your Car

A late contribution to #MarchIsForMakers, the month long world-wide event about makers and the maker community, this post will be all about how to use the Raspberry Pi to make your car “smarter”.

Cars have always been lagging behind when it comes to technologies integrated, and when the manufacturers started introducing modern technology to their cars, it was exclusive to high-end models although the technology is affordable, so let’s try and use the $35 card-sized computer to our benefit!

This is not meant to be a tutorial but rather an eye-opener to the opportunities with hints to give a head-start and save you some time.


  1. Quick Guidelines
  2. Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Hotspot
  3. Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Media Center
  4. Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Music Box (Spotify, Soundcloud, Google Music, etc …)
  5. Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Dashcam
  6. Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into Diagnostic Tool
  7. Various General Purpose Tutorials

Quick Guidelines

If you intend to use your Raspberry Pi in your car then make sure to get a good case to protect it, heat sink to make sure it doesn’t get very hot, and place it somewhere so that the sun doesn’t hit it directly.

Pi Borg Plus Case
Pi Borg Plus Case, a Raspberry Pi Case

Also, make sure it is getting enough juice by providing it with at least 1.8A, specially if you will connect peripherals like WiFi dongle, Bluetooth dongle, 3G modem, flash memory, or camera.

Finally, find a way to prevent the Raspberry Pi from suddenly losing power by either using a battery, power bank, or manually shutting it off before switching off your car’s engine, this is to make sure the Raspbian OS successfully shuts down to prevent data loss or any corruption.

Although the Raspberry Pi will work with any SD card, it is recommended to not go cheap on that one, you see, the SD card acts as the primary storage which holds the boot partition and OS files, for more info and recommended SD card(s) checkout the official documentation for SD Cards.

Generally, it is advisable to either read the frequently asked questions (FAQs) or at least bookmark the link as it will for sure come in handy later on.

Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Hotspot

Turning your Raspberry Pi into a hotspot doesn’t only mean configuring it so that it acts as a WiFi access point that devices can connect to, it also means that you can specify a network interface (Ethernet or 3G dongle for example) to act as a source of internet connectivity, and have that internet connection shared with devices connected to the hotspot.

This is particularly useful to not only be able to connect using your smartphone or tablet and control the Raspberry Pi, but also to provide internet access to both your Raspberry Pi as well as your different devices on the go.

Raspberry Pi B+ WiFi Hotspot
Raspberry Pi B+ with WiFi dongle and 3G modem

This is like the ultimate tutorial that covers everything you’ll need in a clear way, however note that the tutorial assumes that internet connection source is Ethernet, most probably for you it will be a 3G dongle, Setting up a Raspberry Pi as a WiFi access point.

Setting up a 3G dongle shouldn’t be that hard, generally, you should google “raspberry pi 3g modem” followed by the model number and the manufacturer name of your 3G dongle/modem, as a start, check this tutorial to get introduced to `usb_modeswitch`, if all else fails, check Sakis3g which is a script that should try to detect and configure your 3G device.

Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Media Center

A media center is an app or a system that allows you to add your audio/video library and have it categorized and extra info downloaded from the web, so that you can later browse your library in a convenient way.

The ultimate media center app is Kodi, what’s amazing about Kodi is:

  • It runs on all systems you can image, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and even Android.
  • It is free, open source, and actively supported and developed.
  • It is extensible, many extensions are written for it to add all the functionality you may need.
  • It has themes too!

While you can easily install Kodi on your Raspberry Pi with one command, as easy as `$ sudo apt-get install kodi`, this will install Kodi as an app which you can run as any app on Raspbian, the Raspberry Pi’s default OS.

If you want Kodi to auto-start whenever you power on the Raspberry Pi, which should be the case if you want to use it as media center connected to a TV or your car’s speakers, check this Stack Exchange question for how to do it and how to fix an issue that happens as a result.

While Kodi runs on the Raspberry Pi, it can make use of tweaks here and there to optimize its performance for such low power device, OSMC offers the easiest solution by providing an image of Raspbian ready for installation that comes with Kodi installed and configured for best performance on the Raspberry Pi, also removes unnecessary software bundled with Raspbian, and makes Raspberry Pi boots directly to Kodi with a specifically designed theme that makes the experience smooth with no lagging.


After installing either Kodi, or burning the OSMC image, get started by adding media sources, that is telling Kodi where to look for images, music albums, TV shows, and movies, this allows Kodi to starts building your library and fetch all info it can get about your library contents.

You can easily control Kodi through any device connected to the same network, using any of the following:



Yatse Remote App Yatse Remote App Yatse Remote App

Yatse Android App

There are other media center solutions some of which are built specifically for the Raspberry Pi, and others can run on the Raspberry Pi with a bit of effort:

  • Plex, while it is not totally free, it allows you to stream your content from any where as long as your Plex Media Server and your device are connected to the internet.
  • OpenELEC, while it is basically the same idea as OSMC, an OS that comes with pre-configured Kodi and some add-ons, OSMC seems to be growing faster.

Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Music Box

If all you want out of your Raspberry Pi is to connect it to your sound system or car’s speakers, then you should have a look at the Pi MusicBox.

The Pi MusicBox is free, open source, pre-configured OS image, based on Raspbian, and Mopidy, the Python music server.

Pi MusicBox features:

  • Stream music from Spotify.
  • Google Music.
  • SoundCloud.
  • Webradio.
  • Podcasts.
  • Other music sources in the cloud.
  • Local music library.
  • Stream using AirPlay and DLNA, from iOS, and Android devices, or even PCs.
  • Control it using any device connected to same network through web interface or any MPD-client (like MPDroid for Android).
  • WiFi support.
  • Support for Raspberry Pi external sound cards for those who like to have even better sound quality!
Pi MusicBox
Pi MusicBox

What’s so good about the Pi MusicBox, beside supporting almost everything one can dream of, it doesn’t require tinkering and can work smoothly on old Raspberry Pi 1 models as the A and the A+, meaning, you don’t even have to buy a new Raspberry Pi to run it.

Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Dashcam

While you can hook up almost any USB webcam to the Raspberry Pi and have it shoot videos as well as still images, the official Pi Camera Module provides better integration and higher output resolution as well.

A dashcam allows you to create nice timelapse videos after a long ride, provide video evidence in cases of accidents, or have it double up as a rear-view backup camera, which would be great if you added a distance sensor to act as a parking sensor.

Raspberry Pi Powered Dash Cam
Raspberry Pi Powered Dash Cam

Here are some tutorials that each tackles a part of the setup we described, all together should allow you to build a great system:

Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into Car Diagnostic Tool

Our cars are full of sensors collecting all kinds of data, you can tap into all that via a standard protocol (OBD-II) using a serial port that is originally used to communicate all such data to diagnostic tools used by mechanics and service centers to check the health of different parts of your car.

OBD Serial Port
OBD Serial Port

You will first need to buy an OBD-II to USB or Bluetooth connector, then follow these different tutorials:

OBD Data Collected by Raspberry Pi and Presented on Screen
OBD Data Collected by Raspberry Pi and Presented on Screen

Various General Purpose Tutorials

During my research, i found many useful tutorials that could fit in more than one section, so i grouped them here, also, you will find that there is a ready product which you can buy that is based on Raspberry Pi that offers even more features.

CARPUTERS – SOME IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED This is a blog post from the official Raspberry Pi blog where it discusses some of the ideas already present here along with tutorials.

Raspberry Pi Touch Screen Car Compute This is a detailed project on instructables which explains how to run a media center on the Raspberry Pi and connect a touch screen to it to have a nice looking system in your car.

iCarus – intellectual car PC This is actually a product that you can buy that has almost all features discussed here and much more, what’s awesome about it is that it is a mature product so you will have a reliable system deeply integrated with your car, and offering many features.

Car PC project This is a project that offers a pre-configured downloadable image that allows you to have a media center, navigation using GPS, and touch screen in your car using the Raspberry Pi and different components.

Raspberry Pi Car Computer Detailed project to have a media center with a touch screen in your car, even if the project idea is not new, make sure to check it for ideas concerning integrating the Raspberry Pi in your car as well as touch screen installation.

Building a Raspberry Pi Car Computer A very nice project with lots of features like music player, GPS integration, weather forecast, and much more, with detailed instructions and tested with the newest Raspberry Pi 3 as well

Finally, instead of focusing on one feature and write a tutorial for a feature that already has many tutorials, i tried to collect different tutorials for different ideas for maximum benefit so that one can find  many ideas in one place with links to all the tutorials one might need, some of those tutorials are so essential i almost have them memorized, so i made sure to include them.

If you have your own Raspberry Pi project, or followed one or more of the tutorials mentioned here and achieved some good results, make sure to let me know and don’t forget to send pictures 😀

Filed under: Projects, Raspberry Pi

About the Author

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I am a self-taught geek, I develop websites using PHP/Java/Python, and MySQL/ElasticSearch, over Apache/Nginx; My daily job includes working with Laravel, Magento, WordPress, WooCommerce, and enough system administration to manage servers lying around.


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