Getting Started

This project is geared towards those with some intermediate computer skills, particularly the Linux command line. If the command line intimidates you don’t be afraid. There are plenty of samples for you to copy and paste. The car portion is easy: just plug it all in, put it out of the way, and you’re good to go.

You can even set all this up on a motorcycle.


This hardware provides everything you need for using your Pi. For use in the car, you’ll need something like an AC inverter. Some inverters also have USB plugs so that you can plug the Pi’s USB cable directly into the inverter. My favorite for years has been this affordable and durable
$25 Bestek. It has 2 AC outlets and 2 USB plugs.

Once this goes beyond hobby level you’ll also need a good case for the Pi. Standard cases won’t fit if you use the Pi UPS mentioned later. In future iterations this project will add extra sensors that’ll throw off the size and shape of the Pi. But for now, any random Pi case will do.

  • Raspberry Pi (Model B)
  • 32 GB SD Card (8 GB minimum. The more the better, especially for storing dash cam footage)
  • USB Micro cable
  • AC/USB adapter
  • GPS receiver
  • Pi UPS


  • Basic computer hardware
  • Linux command line

High Level Steps

  1. Setup the Raspberry Pi
  2. Run the setup script to register your Pi and store your data
  3. Plug the Pi into your car’s cigarette lighter for power and neatly tuck everything in
  4. Drive around and let the Pi record your car’s analytics
  5. Export, access, and make sense of all that data

Quick-start guide or advanced setup guide (with detailed step by step instructions)

Things to do post-setup

View your car’s GPS data

Sync the local data to the cloud service

Running your own cloud service

Advanced Hardware Setup

Let’s make the Pi more durable for your day to day car use. Firstly, it’s highly recommended you get this Pi UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). The Pi should not suddenly have it’s power plug pulled as this’ll eventually corrupt the SD card and damage the hardware. Since you can’t shut it down properly in your car, the Pi UPS allows your Pi to shut down properly when the car is shut off and power is suddenly unavailable.

Installation is really simple. Plug it in, then download and their software using the commands below:

cd /home/pi
sudo dpkg -i piusvmonitor.deb

After you’re done, unplug the Pi and plug the power cable (micro-USB) into the PiUPS instead of the Pi. Now the power is going through theĀ  PiUPS instead of directly to the Pi. So when your car is shut off and power is cut, the PiUPS will use its battery power to safely shut down the Pi.

2 thoughts on “Getting Started”

  1. This is a great project! I’m pretty new to the Pi, but I’ve got the gps connected and publishing a current position and .gpx log using SimpleHTTPServer. Is there a way to get this data to auto upload either when wifi becomes available (you pull into your driveway at the end of a trip) or during a trip as wifi (like a MiFi) or a connected 3G dongle lose and regain signal?


    1. The current bottleneck is in how the data is uploaded after it’s logged on the Pi. I’m planning on building a smartphone app that uses BlueTooth to talk to the Pi while it’s in the car to get the data and sync it to the server. However, you can also add a USB WiFi adapter like this one to be able to remote into the Pi:

      With that, you could add a script that always syncs whenever it can connect to an open access point, then turn on your MiFi to let the Pi get an internet connection and begin syncing. I already have most of that built, so maybe I’ll add that in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A Pi powered black box and cloud storage for your car