Using Arduino for custom car dash?

Hi everyone, Im hoping this might be the right place for what i’m after and if its not i apoligize.

A friend and I are in the early stages of rebuilding a car and we want to try do something new with the cluster.

The idea is to have the main cluster on a touch device that allows you to start the engine and display all the engines readings (temp, oil, boost etc) and then have another screen for controlling the radio, locks ac etc…
while I know we have seen many of these functions already being used in some fashion, is there any current way of combining them into one?

Although you can get touch screens for the Arduino, they tend to be relatively small. e.g. 2.4 inch

I'm currently messing around with using an Android tablet as the display and input device, and then communicating with an Arduino (via Wifi at the moment - though bluetooth would be better - but my cheapo $50 tablet doesn't have it )

There are other ways to interface directly between Android and Arduino, the ADK which is a Mega Arduino + additional hardware and Sparkfun does a board called an IOIO (

Of course going down the Android route means you may have to write your own custom Android App, but there may already be an App that does this for you

thanks for the reply.

I looked at the IOIO and can see how that would be a good way of connecting it. What would you recommend to use?

I'd look around and see what sort of tablets are available first and how much you want to spend.

Bluetooth is a cheap option, if the tablet has it, as Bluetooth HC06 and HC05 modules are really cheap to connect the Arduino to Bluetooth via transparent serial connection.

Or find a tablet with an OTG (USB host) port, as you can connect devices like the Arduino Leonardo that use the ATMega32U4 as that chip has built in USB that can mimic lots of things including keyboards.

I suspect the IOIO probably gives you the fastest communications with an Android device, but I've never used one, so hopefully someone else can comment on it.

You probably also want to look at a CAN Bus interface, if your car is relatively modern i.e built in the last 10 years or so, as its possible to read loads of engine data etc from CAN. There are several other ongoing threads where people are interfacing to cars via CAN, however I don't think that CAN bus would be able to do all the things you probably need to do.

I’ve also just looked at doing something on a smaller scale to see if it will work, I’m thinking of trying to change the main electric window control module in my car to be a touch screen… obviously it still has the same issue with needing a developer to write the software but how could i go about getting the signal sent to the device?


Depends on the age of your car, if you have normal manual switches that feel like they physically make a contact and send power to the window motors, you could use an arduino with a relay module to behave like a switch. The relay modules are dirt cheap on eBay, and mini arduino's are also less than $10 and have all the functionality of the Arduino, except you'd need a 5V regulator (7805) (again very cheap on places like eBay if you are willing to wait for stuff to come from china)

BTW. I've been doing some hacking of my $50 tablet, and it looks like I need to unsolder the internal wifi module and connect the Arduino in its place. Actually, I'm trying to attach the internals from a USB hub inside the tablet, so I can have the wifi module and the Arduino and possibly other devices e.g. all attached at the same time.

But I have some technical hurdles to overcome as the tablet runs on 3.3V internally and most hubs etc and Arduinos run on 5V Though this wouldnt be an issue in a car environment, because the hub and the Arduino could be run from a separate 5V supply e.g. 7805 derived from the car's 12V supply

Just in case you guys are interested.

I've given up trying to modify the internals of the Android tablet to directly connect the Arduino.

This is because it looks like all USB hubs (and the one I was testing) don't work on 3.3V. So I'd need a separate 5V supply for this. And it wouldn't be running on the same voltage as the tablet and would drain the battery a lot if I fitted a 3.3V to 5V up-converter.

So as my cheapo tablet doesn't have BlueTooth (none of the cheap ones I've looked at online see to have BlueTooth, it seems to be something that limited to more expensive models), I'm going to use an external Wifi based solution. i.e connect a "Uart Wifi" module to my Arduino and then change the wifi settings in the tablet to use the Arduino's wifi as if it was a base station (Access Point).

This means I won't have to risk damaging the tablet.

The downside is I'll keep needing to change the wifi settings every time I want to communicate with the Arduino, but for development purposes, I will probably change the "Uart Wifi" module to operate as another client (Station), and put it on a fixed IP, so I don't have issues with the Android software accessing it.

So all I need to do now is learn how to program Android in Java ;-) (Actually you can do it using Flash - via Adobe Air, which would make for nicer looking UI's ;-)