Raspberry Pi goes Android Auto: Now you can build your own cheap car head unit

Why buy a finished Android Auto head unit when you can hack one together with a Raspberry Pi 3?

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A student-developer put off by the price of Android Auto head units has released the Linux-based Crankshaft OS that turns a $35 Raspberry Pi 3 with the official $60 Raspberry Pi seven-inch touchscreen into a functioning, unofficial Android Auto head unit.

Built by Huan Truong, Crankshaft is based on the recently released OpenAuto project, an aasdk- and Qt-based emulator for running Android Auto on a Raspberry Pi.

But whereas OpenAuto requires configuration work, Truong says Crankshaft is a "turnkey GNU/Linux distribution", which only needs to be downloaded and written to an SD card for the Raspberry Pi 3 tablet.

His demo model, spotted by Android Police, uses a suction cup attached to the rear of the Raspberry Pi 3 tablet with Crankshaft displaying apps from a USB-connected Android phone in a larger driver-friendly format. The Raspberry Pi is also connected to the car stereo via a 3.5mm headphone jack.

In an appeal to Reddit users to test out Crankshaft and report bugs, Truong notes that the software is still "very early in the development stage", so it might not work for some Android handsets.

However, some early testers report that Crankshaft works with the Raspberry Pi 3 connected to a Google Pixel 1 and 2 phones, a One Plus 3, and Nexus 6P. Devices that didn't work included the Moto G4, and Galaxy Note 8.

As Truong explains, besides the price of Android Auto head units, another motivation for building Crankshaft was he couldn't find a unit that fit his 1998 model car, which has a single DIN slot.

Pi Truong's setup didn't have a microphone connected during the driving demo so he was limited to the touchscreen. However, in a separate demo he shows the Crankshaft-powered tablet handing off calls and voice commands to the phone's mic.

And while you can use Android Auto on a smartphone, Truong says his creation has solved his problem of the phone getting hot when using maps for extended periods.

Video: Crankshaft Android Auto for Raspberry Pi driving demo. Source: Huan Truong/YouTube

Video: Crankshaft Android Auto for Raspberry Pi features demo. Source: Huan Truong/YouTube

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