How To Build A PC Into Your Car
June 19, 2006
In addition, both traditional desktops and notebooks are plagued with overheating problems and unexpected reboot issues. Inopportune reboots can occur as power fluctuates in a system designed more to provide power for a car's lights, wiper motors and fans than the smooth, constant voltage required for typical computing.
Car PC's Require Special Components
A reliable in-car PC needs to use small yet rugged components whose size and shape allow proper placement, whether on a crowded dashboard, in or under a dashboard, or under the car's seats. The PC needs to be out of the way of the car's critical instruments.
A car PC must also be designed to be a real workhorse. It will need to handle heat and cold, exposure to sunlight, rapid changes in temperature and humidity, along with shocks and vibrations from the road. The system must also survive as an add-on to a power system that is frequently switched off, often for long periods, and that is prone to deep cycle discharging.
Automotive electrical systems—unlike the clean, steady household current from a wall receptacle—operate off a DC (direct current) storage system that is constantly changing. First, it discharges to deliver power to 'turn-over' a cold car engine. Then it charges the battery back to capacity as the car is driven. Car PCs must operate from power fully conditioned to remove the risk of low voltage during cranking and carefully regulated to prevent damage to PC components during charging.
In summary, an in-car PC must work consistently and meet the challenges of in-vehicle operability. It must be able to take a beating, have short boot times, offer power-saving features, and run its applications easily and safely accessible. The system must be mountable where it is easily visible but doesn't block the driver's line of vision or the path of airbags. The system also must be fastened securely so it won't come lose in a minor accident.