While Tesla’s operating system is known for having tons of built-in features (including the ability to play AAA video games), there’s one capability that’s notably missing: support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Michał Gapiński, however, has figured out a way to hack support for both into Teslas, using a web browser, two Raspberry Pis, a handful of add-ons and cables, and Android.
Gapiński calls it the Android Tesla Project (h/t to MacRumors for bringing it to our attention), and it does what its name implies: provides an Android Auto interface that you can access through the car’s built-in web browser. (Shout out to open web standards, putting in the work as always.) While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a project like this — another developer got Android Auto working in the car’s web browser using just an app — emulating an entire tablet is taking it to the next level.
That process isn’t exactly easy, which is to be expected since Gapiński is pitching this as an alpha. According to the Android Tesla hardware page, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi 4 to run Android, a Raspberry Pi 3 or up to run Linux (which is responsible for capturing the video and shuffling it to your Tesla’s computer over Wi-Fi), add-on cards for HDMI and LTE, and cables to hook it all together.
After going through the (lengthy) software setup process and moving all the hardware into your car, you should be able to connect your Tesla to the Pi’s Wi-Fi network and enter an IP address in the Tesla’s web browser, where you’ll be greeted by Android. From there, you can launch an app that handles CarPlay and Android Auto, giving you access to your phone’s native music interface, maps, and more.
Based on a video Gapiński uploaded, the experience doesn’t seem like the most responsive thing ever (and apparently navigation audio instructions aren’t working yet), but it does seem to be reasonably functional.
Again, though, this project is very much still in development, hence the two Raspberry Pis. Gapiński’s site says the requirement “might be dropped in the future” and that the goal is for it to run on a single Raspberry Pi 4. It’s also very far away from being a one- or two-step installation process. The current instructions shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to anyone with a decent amount of Linux or modding experience, but I’d imagine they’re pretty intimidating for someone looking to plug and play. The Tesla Android Project’s about page does indicate that the goal is to make installation possible “in a matter of minutes.”
While being able to run CarPlay is a major selling point of Tesla Android, it can also work with Android Auto as well. Plus, there’s the entire Android tablet interface that you can use, too, for things like web browsing or even running diagnostics, although obviously, you should not do any of that while driving.
There’s something delightful about CarPlay being enabled via its competing operating system, but the true magic here is all the work Gapiński’s put in. Even if it’s not ready for prime time, it’s cool to see people adding features to their cars in unexpected (and deeply nerdy) ways.