Smart Aftermarket Car Navigation System

Hi there!

I just came to share a bit about a little tech adventure I went on in the past weeks and wondered if someone is also experimenting in the same direction.

So our car is lovely to us, a 2015 Audi A4 station wagon bought used in 2017, but the navigation system was based on the original pre-facelift model of 2008. Which is closing in on navigation system stone age. So I looked around and bit the bullet on an RSNAV aftermarket unit for our car.

We installed it in one wild ride from some time around 8 PM to 2 AM one night about four weeks ago and I have to tell: it’s exciting to take parts of your car apart (not being perfectly sure if you can get it back together) and even more so exiting and satisfying to see the thing work more or less perfectly thereafter.

We now have a modded Android tablet hard-wired into our car which works well with the original controls of the car. The thing identifies as a Samsung Tab S6 but has completely different dimensions in terms of its screen. It has an LTE modem and connects to the car’s GPS antennae.

This is what the GPS looked like before:

This is what the new GPS looks like:

I just thought to float this little abstract of an experience here if anyone is interested or also wants to share / discuss their car-modding experiences. (I am not into external modding - just simply trying to make the thing as smart as possible.)

If anyone has done this before, I was wondering how people are using their new gadget besides navigation, music, audiobooks, podcasts. I was thinking parking and weather radar apps.

However, there is a big point to be made how much the device - especially when still new - can distract. There is no two ways around it. It takes getting used to not interacting with the thing and doing everything by voice command. I am training myself to not touch the device when driving. What helps is that it attracts smudges in an instant…

Cheers! :slight_smile:

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I looked at updating the built-in system in my 2014 Qashqai to an Android model, which should be a drop-in replacement.

The main reason was that it would drop out the Bluetooth every now and then and you’d either have to reboot the radio or wait a couple of minutes and it would come back. The problem was, I have a 25 minute drive to work and it would sometimes drop out 4 or 5 times!

I asked my local dealer and they had a firmware upgrade, which cost nothing, except the labour charge for installing it (25€). I did that and it has worked flawlessly ever since, so I’ve shelved the upgraded entertainment system for now.

The maps in the satnav are from 2014, but given that I use it maybe twice a year, they are good enough and don’t warrant paying out several hundred Euros for a new system, plus an additional LTE contract. I stick with Bluetooth for the smartphone and, if the destination is newer than 2014 and isn’t on the map, I’ll run Google Maps or Apple Maps for the last couple of kilometres.

I get lost more often with the GPS than I do when following road signs. I’ll often look at the road sign and then the GPS tells me to go in totally the opposite direction! That is unnerving. The other problem I often have is that the GPS will tell me I need to turn left in 250M, then, after 150M, it tells me I missed the turning and I need to turn around, or it recalculates the route! (I’ve had that both with the built-in GPS and with my smartphone.)

I went to one meeting, the GPS missed 4 turning in a row (announced after I had passed the turning that I needed to take, that I should have turn off)! In the end, I looked at the map and then turned off the GPS and just drove to the destination based on having looked at the map and following the road signs.

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That looks neat. Does it retain all the Audi functionality?

Our Subaru is the model year before Android Auto and Apple CarPlay was added, so I’m always looking on eBay for the later head unit I can slot in.

@big_D have you looked on eBay for the 2021 mapping for your Qashqai? Usually £20ish for the SD card. Even my ancient Range Rover you could buy a new map DVD for it.

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If I need to use it regularly, I’ll have a look for a new card. For once or twice a year, it isn’t really worth it.

And they are redoing the roads in all directions from us at the moment. 300M East & West, the road is closed and you are diverted. The entrance to the town from North and South is blocked and diverted.

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Yeah, that was the very early staring point for our idea to update. About 30 minutes after having bought that car in 2017 we found out that it had bluetooth, but only for calling and not for music. That got the ball rolling - but the ball took 4 years to get somewhere.

Fully agree. The basic function to orient the driver was fine in the old system as well. However, I feel like there’s something like a GPS 1.0 and a GPS 2.0 with 1.0 being offline and 2.0 being connected. Case in point: the first day after having installed the system I drove somewhere I can find without maps or GPS - another town around our city. Then, Google Maps directed me in a thoroughly unusual way which I thought to be maybe marginally faster - and I ignored the recommendation. Sure enough, 10 minutes later, I was standing in a traffic jam caused by a closed-for-maintenance tunnel. Having the navigation accurately respond to current events does feel like a step up. Whether that’s worth the price: well, not really. To me, the price is justified by the function and (a lot of it) the “tech exploration factor”.

For me it’s slightly different. Usually, I start with the GPS, then the system rather pointlessly and repetitively announces to go straight or to go right on superlongstreetnamewhichitrepeatseverytime. So I turn off the announcements (because there is no “just a little announcements”) which then leads to me forgetting to check the GPS and passing by crucial turns. So yeah… :smiley:

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Even more so than I expected: since the screen and its logic board is just looped into the existing radio-gps-antennae-hardware, you can still access the entirely running Audi system on the new screen. So I can use the old radio, the CD player, even the old GPS.

Where it has its limits is that Audis of that time had a wheel-controller in the center console as well as mouse-wheel-style-controllers on the wheel. This does work in Android, but in many apps, there is hardly any consistency in highlighting the button or function you have under your scroll wheel and would activate if you pressed the controller. That could be nicer, but it’s also slightly out of the reach of the 3rd-party-GPS manufacturer.

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Sounds good. I’ve always wondered with these 3rd-party screens. With cars I’ve had, quite a few of their settings are via the touch screen, so you wouldn’t want to lose that.

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Yeah. I was slightly apprehensive about the system making some servicing impossible. We try taking very good care of the car (maybe overly so) and have it serviced by an official service point. Had a service appointment coming up and was slightly weary of getting a big sigh and a shaking of heads from the service people there. Not a word, though. Possibly they are trained to be polite.

There’s another thing you don’t want to lose: flawless electronics in a car. Electronic gremlins in a car can be a pain to hunt down. Thankfully, we a) were not bitten by those (yet) and b) we did not ponder that thought to excessively beforehand. The degree to which the manual explained not to, in any case, screw up (plug or unplug with ignition on) or route cables close to the CAN BUS left lasting impressions.

That, and the ever so slight risk of setting off an airbag when routing a cable and getting punched into oblivion. Or ripping off something that was not intended to be ripped off (and many bits and pieces in a car are designed to be carefully removed [most cases: ripped with necessary force] from its clipping mounts).

So yes, there are a few things that spice up the experience, in hindsight.

Yes, my old (2004) Ford Mondeo had a touchscreen system (it used to crash regularly - often with white noise at high volume, the only way to reset it was to turn off the ignition and remove the key, not really something you want to do at 220km/h in the left lane!) and it controlled not only the radio, but the climate control as well, plus a few other deep-down settings.

The Qashqai is better. The enterntainment system only deals with the entertainment system. All car settings are done with the screen in the instrument binnacle and the steering wheel. That should make swapping out the radio, should it become necessary, a bit easier.

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