Con­nected cars roll out

A world of ser­vices will be­come avail­able to pas­sen­gers with the in­tro­duc­tion of in­ter­net ac­cess in cars, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE.COM.AU -

FACE­BOOK, Twit­ter and MyS­pace are com­ing to your car. Soon you will be able to in­sert a con­ven­tional 3G SIM card into a slot some­where in the dash­board that will turn your ve­hi­cle into a mo­bile Wi-Fi hotspot.

Chris Ryan, boss of Strike, which im­ports mainly Blue­tooth ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy, says Aus­tralian mo­torists will be­come fa­mil­iar with in­ter­net­con­nected ve­hi­cles in the next few years, just as they did when in-car en­ter­tain­ment and air­con­di­tion­ing be­came stan­dard.

He says in­ter­net de­vices were a high­light of the re­cent Mo­bile World Congress in Barcelona and that mo­torists ‘‘will ben­e­fit im­mensely from the new tech­nol­ogy’’.

In­ter­net-em­pow­ered cars at the congress fea­tured the SIM card slot po­si­tioned be­low the in-car dis­play.

Ryan says it will al­low pas­sen­gers to plug into the in­ter­net ‘‘as if they were at an in­ter­net cafe and they can log in to all so­cial net­work­ing sites at the click of a but­ton’’.

‘‘Pas­sen­gers will be able to Skype, watch movies and email,’’ he says.

At the Mo­bile World Congress, Audi used a 3G-en­abled A5 to show off nav­i­ga­tion applicatio­ns and stream­ing en­ter­tain­ment fea­tures.

Audi plans to in­clude 3G con­nec­tiv­ity in se­lected over­seas A8 mod­els later this year, ac­cord­ing to Audi Aus­tralia cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions gen­eral man­ager Anna Burgdorf.

She says the cur­rent A8 has a SIM slot be­hind the sat nav screen and the new model will have this and an SD card slot.

Ryan says the fea­ture will open up a world of in­for­ma­tion and ser­vices.

‘‘From the com­fort of the mo­torist’s seat, they can make si­mul­ta­ne­ous voice and data con­nec­tions,’’ he says.

‘‘Pas­sen­gers will be able to use in-built nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems, which are com­pat­i­ble with Google Earth and sim­i­lar GPS sys­tems. They will pro­vide high­res­o­lu­tion, 3D satel­lite and aerial im­agery as well as live traf­fic up­dates.’’

Mean­while, In­tel and Google are de­vel­op­ing in­ter­ac­tive dash­boards with large screens show­ing 3D maps, web pages and videos. They will be ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing restau­rant re­views and venue in­for­ma­tion on­line while ve­hi­cles are mov­ing.

Ryan says Strike will im­port ‘‘in-car ac­ces­sories, which will com­ple­ment the new tech­nol­ogy and that will see con­sumers have ac­cess to the con­ve­nience of the in­ter­net at their fin­ger­tips, no mat­ter where there are’’.

How­ever, not every­one is as ex­cited about the in­tro­duc­tion of in­ter­net to ve­hi­cles.

Na­tional Fa­tal­ity Free Fri­day road safety ini­tia­tive founder Rus­sell White says giv­ing driv­ers the abil­ity to surf the net while on the road is ‘‘too big a temp­ta­tion’’.

RACQ traf­fic and safety ex­ec­u­tive man­ager John Wik­man says most satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion units pro­vide es­sen­tial driver in­for­ma­tion, but in­ter­net sys­tems are more en­ter­tain­men­to­ri­ented and can be a dis­trac­tion.

‘‘I don’t see how you can in­put data and be con­cen­trat­ing on driv­ing the car at the same time,’’ he says.

RACQ tech­ni­cal ser­vices of­fi­cer Steve Spald­ing says the over­rid­ing fac­tor must be safety.

‘‘It is im­por­tant that ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers and reg­u­la­tors bal­ance the in­tro­duc­tion of in-car com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy with the risk of driver dis­trac­tion,’’ he says.

‘‘In­ter­ac­tive tech­nolo­gies such as this can dis­tract the driver even though it might be in use by the pas­sen­gers.

‘‘I think there would be a real temp­ta­tion for the driver to look across at a lap­top screen.’’

Cur­rent reg­u­la­tions pro­hibit vis­ual dis­play units be­ing vis­i­ble to the driver while the ve­hi­cle is mov­ing un­less it is a driv­ing aid such as a sat nav.

WEB ON WHEELS: The Audi A8 will have in­ter­net ac­cess.

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