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