Parrot RNB6 Android Auto & Apple CarPlay has MHL

Parrot the consumer electronics company has today unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Parrot RNB6 which is an after-market infotainment system.

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What makes this so special is that it has a 7 inch touchscreen and runs Google’s Android operating system.  Think of it like a glorified Android tablet docked in your car.

But it gets better, as well as being like a tablet, it is also capable of running Google’s new Android Auto and Apple CarPlay making connection to your mobile device and interaction with you in vehicle entertainment system very different to what we currently have today.

Apart from the fact that you can connect via Bluetooth to make hands free calls, and the fact that it uses the standard 2-DIN plugs, making installation very easy, there are loads of other great features.

Take a look at the following image and notice all the various connections.

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The system can connect to your vehicles on-board diagnostics(OBD2) but does too have USB, ethernet, HDMI and MHL included.

MHL is of particular interest to me.  Whilst the Android OS and the Google’s Android Auto are great, the fact you will be able to (with the appropriate device and cable) just mirror your smartphones screen is a big bonus.

For me and perhaps for yourself, you are familiar with the setup and location of shortcuts on your phone, so if you can mirror this in your car and not need to learn a new solution it makes it much easier in terms of day to day usage.

Your phone is doing all the processing, the screen is just a bigger interface for it.

I am keen to see what this actually works like when they are available for general purchase.

Source: Slashgear

Boot Buddy review

BootBuddyLogoAfter a recent change of vehicle I decided I was no longer able to put up with the constant dog hair that seemed to be attracted to the carpet walls of the boot space, so I went in search of a solution.

The solution was, Boot Buddy, a custom made liner for the boot of the vehicle that offers a more friendly solution and makes for easier dirt, dust, dog hair and general spill management.

The general purpose and benefits are best explained in the following video:

At £250 for a liner for the boot of my Ford Focus, it isn’t exactly cheap. There was then the additional £25 cost for the anti-slip liner which was essential really to stop the dog sliding about.

Delivery takes about 2 weeks which isn’t too bad considering the bespoke nature of the product but considering the cost it would be nice if it was a bit quicker.

The liner is made up in my case (varies by vehicle) of 4 pieces. A piece for the floor, the two sides and the back that rests up against the rear seats.

The liner is quite thick and there is a degree of flexibility to it but it is generally rigid.

The two side pieces attached to the back piece with 3 poppers on each side (they were a bit tough) whilst the back secures with Velcro to the bottom piece of the kit.

Included also were a few extra bits of Velcro that you could attach at your discretion to the liner and carpet inside your vehicle for a better fit and easier removal at a later date.

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On the whole the liner fits well and does the job.

After a month of ownership I am quite pleased and it is certainly easier to clean.

For the price I paid, I would have liked a slightly better fit with more of the boot protected. This may have made it more difficult to fit (I can’t say for sure).  The images show where there are gaps that could have been filled. It feels a little that the custom element of it is defunct when it does not fill the whole boot.

But overall I am happy and would recommend this ans it can save a lot of time and is worth the investment if you have a dog and intend to keep your vehicle for a few years.

I now no longer need to spend an hour hovering the boot for dog hair as it all now collects on the smooth and easy to clean surface of the Boot Buddy.

Visit www.boot-buddy.com for yours.

I pay my road tax too

This post is inspired by a difference of opinion I had with my next door neighbour not to long after moving into my house a few years ago.

In my household, we have 2 cars, but 1 space on the drive, so one has to go on the road.  This principle goes for many of the other houses in the road to.

My next door neighbour does not have a drive, primarily because having a front garden is more appealing to him.

Tax_DiscMost of the time I was able to park on the road right outside my house, but as is the case sometimes this is not always possible due to delivery vehicles, visitors at other houses or the nature of where people have parked.

On a couple of occasions I ended up parking outside his house.  However on his return he would park in the road and request that I move because he wants to park outside his house.

On a couple of occasions I agreed as by the time he returned my ‘usual’ space outside my house had become free.

However it got to the point where I just said no. He didn’t like it and then took the time to explain that it was his space outside his house.

Our road has no parking restrictions, permits, disability bays or anything that would give one the right to claim a parking space is theirs.

He has lived on the road for 40 odd years and thinks he owns it.

It got to the point where he said he paid his road tax and was entitled to the space; to which I explained I also paid my road tax and was equally entitled to the space.

We would all like to park outside our own homes as it is more convenient I agree.  As an older neighbour this plays more importance for him, but he is perfectly able and can easily walk the 20 metres from the next available space in the road.

He does complain less frequently (I think he got the message), but he still makes the request when I have had friends over and they have parked outside his house.

I have even had him come round and ask who was parked outside his house when the vehicle there has nothing to do with me.

I have not even risen to the fact that his daughter often parks outside my house when she comes to visit.

You can probably appreciate the frustration I felt with this subject and I have always kept relatively calm; however it is becoming ever more difficult nearly 4 years on.

Check that your vehicle is showing as insured

You may or may not be aware that the law on motor insurance has changed.

If you own a vehicle that is not declared “off the road” (SORN) and it is registered in your name then it must be insured at all times. If you don’t want to use the vehicle, then you must contact the DVLA to declare the vehicle “off road”. There are penalties for not having a valid insurance policy, and if your policy does not appear on the Motor Insurance Database (MID) you can expect to receive a warning letter in the post, followed by a fixed penalty fine.

You will not be committing an offence if you have done one of the following:

  • Insured your vehicle

  • Declared your vehicle “off the road” (SORN) with the DVLA.

A really hand tool is to check your vehicle is showing as insured on the MID. It is free and takes just a few seconds. Just visit http://ownvehicle.askmid.com/ and pop in your registration to check.

This is especially handy to check if you have moved insurers and want to check everything is all ok as the DVLA and Police work from this database.

Audi A3 dashboard/dashpod failure

I have reserved blogging about this issue for about 6 months due the the sheer anger and frustration this caused for me at the time.  I didn’t want to overreact, but to this day, despite having just dealt with it I feel very annoyed and cheated by Audi in the way they dealt with and handled a dashboard issue on a 2006 Audi A3 that I own.

The following is an honest account of my experience.

DSC_0246During the latter part of last year the car had a battery draining issue immediately after having ignition coils replaced as part of a factory update at Poole Audi (trading as Ocean Automotive Ltd, 582-600 Ringwood Road, Poole, BH12 4LW). This subsequently lead to a cost of in excess of £700 for the replacement of parts that worked perfectly fine prior to the work being carried out.

The car was purchased second hand from a local garage several years ago and has not had a main dealer service history since hitting 3 years old, but has been regularly serviced and looked after.

So with a bit of background here are the course of events:

5/9/2012 – A3 booked into Poole Audi for replacement of rear springs due to wear and tear (no issue here).

12/9/2012 – Work paid for at a cost of £255.50. At the same time 4 new ignition coils were fitted as part of factory update 28E9at no cost to us.

The car was immediately off the road for 3-4 days due to a holiday we were on.

Tried to use it upon return and car would not start without a jump start. Continued to use for a few days jump starting the car and trying to re-charge the battery with no success.

22/ 9/2012 – Called Audi about the problem and they agreed a free of charge inspection. Concerned the ignition coils had something to do with the battery problem.

1/10/2012 – A3 in with Poole Audi for inspection. Diagnosed as a faulty battery. Agreed to a replacement at £130. Happy to accept parts fail, the battery would be fitted the following day once they had it in stock.

2/10/2012 – Called by Poole Audi to say that the replacement battery had not solved the issue and that the dash panel was at fault. The dash panel/pod they refer to is as it the bit with your speedometer, rev counter etc.

Apparently the start up sequence the car completes was constantly happening even with engine off thus draining the battery. Cost to fix including the battery £800.

4/10/2012 – Refused to pay the Audi price because I felt the issue had been miss-diagnosed on the 1/10. The car had showed no signs of battery drain prior to the ignition coil replacement.

I and presumably you do to, expect that if they diagnose the fault they would get it right first time as they are the professionals. 

Paid for the battery (£130) they had replaced and took the A3 to an independent garage called Christchurch garage  who quoted £200 for a refurbishment of the dash panel. The independent garage would remove the part and send to a specialist. I informed Poole Audi that this is what I intended to do.

23/11/2012 – Independent garage confirmed after weeks of trying to re-condition it at the specialist, the specialist was unable to resolve the fault and a new part was the only option. Informed Poole Audi and booked car in for work to be done. In the meantime liaised with Audi head office to see if they could assist with the price as I felt the main dash panel draining the battery was an issue that shouldn’t really come up or be a fault in the life of a car. This was confirmed in the following footage:

 

10/12/2012 – Car back in with Poole Audi for the work to be done. Agreement had been made that Poole Audi  would make a contribution of £231.12 upon me agreeing to a £149 interim service at a later date. Essentially making the service free.

I went with this as at this point we simply wanted a working car back.

Audi HQ confirmed no further support could be given as car was out of warranty, no main dealer service had been had outside of the initial 3 years of ownership.

13/12/2012 – Work completed but informed that because another party had opened the dash (the specialist) there was a surcharge of £155 +VAT. This cost would not have been applied had the dash not been opened.

Poole Audi knew it had been to a specialist and that it had been opened.

I too at this stage find out that the dash part replaced by Audi is not new and is in fact an Audi re-conditioned part with a 2 year warranty. The £155 surcharge was because the faulty dash would normally be sent back to Audi but as they could not send it back due to being opened and they had to pass on this cost that would normally have been reimbursed by Audi HQ.

14/12/2012 – Car collected now working and a total sum of £605.27 paid.

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I fully appreciate that parts can go wrong on a car, but the dash panel going faulty is very rare as identified in the clip from Watchdog and advice from the independent garage.

Poole Audi were informed of the specialist dealing with the dash prior and after their involvement and at no point (other than the day before paying for the work to be completed) mentioned that there would be a surcharge if the dash panel was opened.

Apparently opening up the dash invalidates the warranty on it, but according to Audi HQ because the car was over 3 years old there was no warranty on the car and the parts in it.

Really what it comes down to is they wont repair an already faulty item when somebody else has tried to all ready which to a point is fair. However, Poole Audi did not reveal until this surcharge that the replacement part was a refurbished part and not new!

I really feel that the whole expense of the battery and the dash were unnecessary as no problem existed prior to the ignition coil work being done. I feel like I am £700+ out of pocket. This is worsened by the fact even if I could accept the dash needed replacing, the 3rd party specialist would charge just £200 in comparison to Audi’s £486. Even with a 2 year Audi warranty, that is a considerable price difference and that £486 does not even buy a new part.

The invoices and work were paid as the need for the car to be working was greater than the expense at the time.

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Poole Audi and Audi HQ have some interesting policies. Claiming breaking a seal on a dash invalidates a warranty that no longer exists on the car. I think this is disgusting.

On a side note after the ignition coils were checked a ‘Free Health Check’ was given on the car. Word of warning, the health check is visual and nothing more, essentially rendering it defunct.

My suspicion although I have no facts to support this is that when replacing the ignition coils is shorted or done something to the dash thus causing the issues. I would be more accommodating had it just been the battery needed replacing.

I think Audi cars are fantastic and I really desire some of their current models, but at this time I am not sure I could buy one because of the experience I have had. I like to be fair and appreciate things go wrong, but I can’t help but think had I not taken the car there in the first place I would never have had the issues.

Has anyone else experienced such issues with their Audi A3 or other model? Experienced similarly dire service from another garage?

And finally, Audi…if you read this (unlikely) I would be willing to accept some form of compensation. Just use the contact form above!

Nexus 7 Android tablet in 07 Range Rover Sport

imageI have mentioned many times publically how I feel that cars are often behind when it comes to the integration of mobile technology in the cabin of a vehicle in comparison to the technology we have in our hands and in our homes.

To a point, this is to be expected as innovations and advancements take their time to become proven, tested and finally installed into different environments. However working within the technology industry and having a passion for the best I can own in terms of tech, this desire for an enhanced in car experience is something that is bound to affect me more than most.

This desire for technology goes beyond just mobile, it affects my everyday life.  I might be able to buy product A, but product B has a cool new feature and possibly a cool blue LED so I have to have it, thus a car is the same.

I currently own a 2007 Range Rover Sport 3.6HSE Diesel (keep judgements to yourself Winking smile) and it has a pretty impressive spec list in terms of gadgets/technology:

  • Built in Land Rover navigation
  • Voice Control (Phone/Audio/Navigation)
  • 7 speaker Harmon Kardon speaker system (AM/FM/6 Disc CD/AUX with steering wheel control)
  • Bluetooth car kit (with steering wheel control)
  • imag0052Cruise control (with steering wheel control)
  • Fridge
  • Auto lights
  • Auto wipers
  • Front & rear parking sensors
  • Front & rear heated seats
  • Electronically adjustable front seats with 3 memory positions
  • Anti-glare rear view mirror
  • Electronically adjustable mirrors with reverse dipping
  • Fully adjustable hydraulic suspension
  • Multiple 4×4 modes
  • 22” wheels
  • Countless other tech like ABS, electronic handbrake etc….you get the picture

BUT, there is one frustration more than most and that is the built in satellite navigation. It is just rubbish. It works but it is clunky and just pathetic.20120909_161438

So when I can buy an Android phone for less than £100 and get a better navigation experience on screen than I can on a factory fitted extra that often costs £500+, it is fair to say I, and I expect many of you reading this, feel cheated. 

Especially when things like map updates, if made available are expensive and often out of date by the time they you get them.  This doesn’t happen with Google Maps.

For the last 12 months I have had a navigation system sat idle with my Samsung Galaxy S3 & Google Maps giving me my directions when on the move!

Add to this the limitation of other features. Why can’t I browse the internet in my car or stream music direct to the stereo, or update my Facebook status?!

Some would argue do you need to? Others would say just use your mobile or 3G enabled tablet.  All are valid, but for me it was not enough, I became a  fed up, the screen of the navigation system was redundant, there was a bigger plan.

Now I should point out here that the likes of Volvo are making steps in the right direction to address such matters (as shown here) as I am sure many others are but these still don’t give what I want.

I own and use a Nexus 7 Android tablet along with my smartphone.  It does all that I need it to do and whilst not 3G enabled, it can pair to my phone when necessary to have access to the internet.

So, the plan was to install the Nexus 7 into my dash so that I had a state of the art, fully customisable in car computer. I would be able to navigate, check social networks, browse the web, stream music, read a book, and much much more.

I have been thinking about this sort of install since I began talking about the topic, but I do have to give credit to @mr_bridger (on twitter) for his install HERE and also some other examples on YouTube, most specifically this one by Sonic Electronic which encouraged me to finally do it.

Part of me wanted a complete flush install meaning I couldn’t remove it. The problem is the Nexus 7 needs the power button to be pressed if it runs out of power and that is not possible if it is a flush install.  This issue has been mentioned by @mr_bridger and he came up with an elaborate workaround.Now I don’t have the electrical knowledge of @mrbridger and no audio electronics installer wanted to start tweaking like he did. 

So I went down the removable route, possibly not as professional looking but actually more practical as it meant I could still use my Nexus 7 outside of the car.  In turn this meant keeping only my phone and tablet in sync and not a third device in the car add to this too the fact it less desirable to steal if it isn’t in the vehicle!

Because I am not the most handy with electrics and tools I took it to Audio In Motion for them to install it.

What did they do?

  • Removed the factory fitted navigation screen.
  • Hard wired a power cable from the ignition to Nexus 7 dock (provided by me) that the Nexus would sit in.
  • Chased a cable from the AUX in port on the stereo to the Nexus 7 Dock
  • Lined the recess from which the navigation unit was removed.
  • Cut slits into the vent surrounds to accommodate the Nexus 7.

Thanks to the official Nexus 7 dock, power and audio leads need be connected to the dock only.  The pogo pins on the dock and the Nexus 7 itself contact each time the Nexus 7 is inserted transferring charge and audio through them. This makes the inserting and removal of the Nexus 7 a breeze.

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It is a snug fit when sliding the tablet in and out making it secure and giving it more of a factory fitted look. In fact, unless you knew otherwise many would think it was if they peered in through the window.

The slight annoyance here is that if I did a @mr_bridger style install there would have been no plastic cutting at all. The removal of the navigation screen gave enough space to put the tablet in and make it look like nothing had been changed; but you cant have everything you want!

With the Nexus now fitted there was the question of the interface, do I leave it standard or go for something bespoke like @mr_bridger? My decision was to go for a standard home screen with key app shortcuts on the main home screen.  The fact the the tablet is used outside of the car, I didn’t see the need for a more in-car friendly layout, not to mention the time and effort it takes to create.  In this instance the basic offerings do the job for me, especially as my interaction with the tablet in the car whilst driving is minimal.

The apps I user/require when in the car (be it moving or stationary)

The following is my finished home screen, which uses Apex launcher with Glasklart icon pack and Minimal Apex Theme for the skin and font:

Screenshot_2013-05-03-19-50-48

The app drawer:

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Ulysse app:Screenshot_2013-05-03-19-51-10

When entering the car, I use an NFC tag to activate portable hotspot on my Samsung S3, which the Nexus then connects to for internet.  It activates mobile data on the S3, the Bluetooth is switched on to connect to the Range Rover and I use Vlingo to then control the phone whilst driving.  Another scan on the same NFC tag when exiting the car, deactivates certain features and activates others I am likely to need at the destination.

The current install I have may not be to everyone’s taste. Maybe I should have put it where the main radio is but it was about striking a balance between practicality, functionality & price. Placing it where the stereo is would look amazing, but it would have meant either relying on the tablet or installing somewhere a backup radio. Steering wheel controls may have become redundant and i would have had to look at other Bluetooth car kit options.  Thankfully the layout of the Range Rover’s dash worked to my advantage and I am very pleased with the result.

Most importantly it works for me and it puts a Smile on my face.

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So to give you a better sense of realism and what I have been explaining, see it all in action in the following video:

 

Your comments are always appreciated.