A hacker has modified a Tesla Model S car to install a Linux-based system, making it possible to play movies on the car's central display.
The Tesla Model S comes with a 17-in central display screen, which is the size of an all-in-one tablet PC. This means that the screen would probably be a great way for users to watch movies in their cars, but that isn't exactly safe if the user were to drive on a busy road.
For this reason, Tesla has disabled any video-playing capabilities from its system, and the only video you can see is the rear camera feed. However, this hasn't stopped a hacker by the name of Hemera from having a go to see if it would be theoretically possible.
Hemera started a blog, su-tesla, chronicling her efforts to gain root access to the Tesla Model S and turn her car into a personal entertainment centre. She says the project required two months of research before starting to work on the car.
In order to access the car's computer, Hemera had to unscrew and take parts of the car apart, from removing the dashboard trim under the steering wheel to the vents and the instrument cluster in order to isolate the screen display.
She also had to create her own cable by taking a CAT 6 cable and adding a proprietary connector from Tesla so she could connect to the car's network. She then found that the Tesla Model S' network was protected by a virtual private network (VPN).
To get around this, Hemera had to find another connector to the touchscreen itself and plug the new cable she made into this connector in order to get the car to go into factory mode so that she could access the Tesla Developer Mode screens and then gain root access to the operating system.
She then installed a Gentoo Linux-based system in a qemu-user chroot environment, with the Xfce lightweight desktop environment added on top. After struggling with the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA), which provides Linux systems with audio functionality, as well as the X.Org graphical interface server and Nvidia Tegra drivers, she finally managed to make The Terminator play on the display screen.
"The car would make an amazing media centre. It sounds amazing! The video player I'm using here is SMplayer. The performance was far better than I thought it would be, even with the wonky EGL and codec situation I'm currently in," she wrote in the most recent post.
"I have a few applications installed, though not that much yet. I tried a bunch of browsers but the best one so far is NetSurf. I'm currently fighting with the 3D EGL and some of the Nvidia codecs. Once I get that all ironed out a lot of things should be performing far better."
While very interesting, obviously hacking your car probably voids your warranty and it's unlikely that Tesla would be impressed if the car ever needs servicing. On the plus side, here's yet another hack that can technically make your Tesla display touchscreen into a functioning tablet.