Car manufacturer Chrysler is unveiling a new system that will transform its vehicles from mere petrol-guzzling modes of transport into the internet hotspots of the road.
From 2009, most of its models will have the option of using a dealer-installed system called UConnect Web, sold alongside its other GPS and ICE systems. Chrysler claims this will make it the first manufacturer to put WiFi into cars on a mass scale.
The technology itself isn’t enormously ground-breaking. We’re basically talking about wireless router hooked up to a mobile internet system – the main difference being that these components will cost you $449, plus installation of up to $50.
But who is actually going to benefit from this? You can achieve largely the same thing at a fraction of the cost just by having a mobile web dongle / card plugged into your laptop. The only difference that having a router involved will make is if you also want to let little Brad in the back seat hook up to a game on Xbox Live while you drive the foul-mouthed malcontent to school. Great.
Or you could just leave your encryption open and let every other road user piggy back off your connection. That would at least resemble a real hotspot. But given the exorbitant cost of mobile data fees, I suspect no one is going to be feeling that generous.
On the other hand as mobile internet spreads, the price of using the service should come down, and then hopefully there’ll be more applications and devices able to make use of it. It seems a shame then that Chrysler’s vision is limited to checking the odd email or looking up the best local gas prices while on the road, but I suppose we’ve got to start somewhere.