Saturday, March 15, 2008

In dash iPhone for Car?

clipse AVN2210p CD receiver with detachable TomTom portable navigatorThere are various holders for iPhones and iPod touches in cars, but no one so far seems to have thought to build it into the dashboard. Unlike the average smart phone or PDA, the iPhone and touch can be used in the landscape position. In this position, the screen is about the size and shape of a small entertainment/navigation screen in an upmarket car. Provide a low cost radio and amplifier with a socket for the iPhone to fit in the standard radio dashboard space and you could have a touch screen communications and entertainment system for under $US100 (not including the cost of the iPhone).

An example of this approach is the Eclipse AVN2210P: a dashboard media hub, with a removable TomTom navigation unit. This system got mixed reviews, some good and some bad. This is a large unit, so it will not fit some cars and it is designed to provide a CD and MP3 player, even without the TomTom installed and so is large and expensive. But a similar device, smaller and cheaper, could be made for an iPhone.

An iPhone is 115×61×11.6 mm and the iPod touch is 110×61.8×8 mm. This is a bit taller than the standard slot in a car dashboard for a radio: 180 x 50 mm (the so called "DIN car radio size" DIN 75490 ISO 7736). The iPhone could be accommodated in a double DIN (180 x 100 mm panel) slot (as used by the Eclipse) or simply by having the iPod/iPhone protrude a few mm outside the slot (the average car radio has a surround a few mm bigger). The iPhone is 65 mm shorter than the DIN slot, leaving enough space for a volume control , digital display and some radio controls.

When the iPhone was not in place, the car would still have a working radio. With the iPhone plugged in there would be phone, MP3 and other functions provided via the touch screen. The car unit could be made at very low cost with simple analog electronics, with all the sophisticated functions provided by the iPhone.

As the dashboard unit would only contain a minimum of electronics, it could be made about 10 mm deep and so could also be mounted on a flat surface or on a dashboard top mount, when a dashboard slot is not available. The unit could be made as a removable head, like some car radios. The same unit could then also be used as a desktop dock for the iPhone in the home or office, with some low cost speakers and a power supply attached.

The iPhone does not have a GPS receiver built in. However, the connector on the iPhone includes a USB interface and so the docking unit could pass these signals through to a USB connector for use with an inexpensive external USB GPS receiver. Alternatively a Bluetooth GPS receiver could be used (the iPod touch lacks Bluetooth, but has USB).

See also:

10 comments:

neal779 said...

Interesting thought. Here's an alternative which I have installed in my car.

I have an Alpine HU (cda-9886) which is connected to my iPhone via the Alpine KCE-422i iPod adapter (the only car audio adapter that is compatible with the iPhone, according to Crutchfield).

Here's the part which seems like it may be an alternative to the in-dash unit you described.

I installed a Pro.Fit VSM Legend. They design car mounts for verious devices, which are installed behind the trim bezel in your dash. This provides a mount that is more permanent than vent/adhesive/suction mounts, and are not obtrusive in size. The mount itself requires a bracket to actually mount a device, and they recently released the miCradle that was designed specifically for the iPhone. It was designed specifically for an iPhone without a mount though, but I installed the Ultimate Shield on my phone for extra protection, which fits just fine.

cho0p said...

Seriously I have been thinking of this idea as well... it makes perfect sense, the iphone is basically your all in one 'computer' with the best touch screen on the planet. With the new sdk launched by apple, you could make special car apps for the ipone.

the gps is already onits way..
http://gadgeteer.org.uk/2008/03/06/navngo-planning-iphone-satnav-solution/

As you mentioned the extra avaiable space could accomodate a dvd slot, and some analog controls.. possibly with a hadrive in the rear and some extra external usb and line in jacks...

This seems to me the ultimate solution for an incar pc, as it has everthing already built in basically, as well as a phone... and as you take it with you theres no need for duplicate data ect.


The thing is this iphone/shuffle incar 'housing' would need to be designed as slick as the iphone.. now who is going to produce it?????????? Can I want one

cho0p said...

check out my post on same concept...http://leonwilson.wordpress.com/2008/04/20/iphone-itouch-in-din-car-media-system/

Tom Worthington said...

Parrot have done something like this with their PARROT RK8200 car stereo / Bluetooth hands-free kit.

This looks like a 1 DIN slot dashboard media unit with a small colour screen and removable head. But underneath where you would expect to find a blank panel, there is a slot to put an iPod, MP3 player or mobile phone.

Tom Worthington said...

This week Top Gear Australia featured a Eclipse AVN2210P dashboard media hub, with a removable TomTom navigation unit in a supercharged 4WD TRD Hilux. A race was staged between the vehicle and a horse in Kimberley (Western Australia). The horse won.

jr said...

This would be amazing now that TomTom is releasing an app along with the Sirius/XM app that should be coming soon. I would absolutely buy something like this. You could theoretically have a fully functioning nav/bluetooth/MP3/car stereo/mini computer for the price of an iPhone or iPod Touch and this unit! Who do we need to convince to make one of these??

Sean Biehle said...

It blows my mind that someone hasn't made this yet. Building an app that works as your typical detachable car radio display -- showing time, working with AM/FM radio, controlling audio levels (balance, bass/treble, etc) -- and integrates useful iPhone apps (iPod, Maps, GPS, Pandora) would really make this a must have. But at the bare minimum, just having a car stereo that lets me plug the iPhone into the display would suffice.

Sean Biehle said...

It looks like this, might be closer, the DualAudio XML8110.

Tom Worthington said...

Blogger Sean Biehle said December 30, 2009 4:58 PM:

>It looks like this, might be closer, the DualAudio XML8110.

Yes the Dual XML8110 is similar to what I had in mind. But it is a little more complicated and expensive than needed, as it is designed to fit older iPods. If they made it just for the iPhone and iPod Touch it could have been simpler and cheaper. Dual could have laid the iPod down and dispensed with the fold down panel, duplicated controls and displays

Sean Biehle said...

I agree the ultimate version would be where the iPhone is the interface. However, there a few more hurdles to clear: (1) Landscape views for maps (and a few other apps) which would facilitate using maps for directions (this also assumes that Apple releases a more reasonably priced turn-by-turn app than the Garmin, Magellan, and TomTom apps available; and, (2)
a FM/HD radio app that can plugin into a car's antenna or an iPhone that includes an antenna (like the Nano does).

Until then, for $99 this actually seems like a fairly inexpensive stopgap.