Saturday, July 05, 2008

Chrysler's In-Car Web Access Shifts Mobile Into Gear

Chrysler has announced an initiative to introduce in-car Internet access as an option in all of its 2009 models. While this isn't a new idea, it's the first broad-scale implementation, and should bring to light some innovative new mobile services and applications to people on the go.

The new system, dubbed "UConnect Web," is an extension of the UConnect system already installed on most Chrysler vehicles as a means to connect Bluetooth and MP3 devices. It uses cellular and Wi-Fi signals to allow a constant connection wherever the vehicle may be, and has no restrictions as to what content is allowed.

Chrysler's move comes on the heels of California and Washington initiating legislation banning the use of talking on cell phones while driving, and raises additional concerns as to what will happen when people actually start surfing the Internet and driving. Safety groups will inevitably attack the notion, given that Chrysler doesn't seem to be blocking the newfound access to people while driving.

These concerns aside, I can’t help but think of the possibilities such ubiquitous coverage could provide to motorists. It's a given that people nowadays are constantly connected through a variety of devices anyway; utilizing that connectivity along with other vehicle systems and electronics could open up things like enhanced GPS functionality, streaming music options, new safety options, and much more.

GPS systems that are enhanced with Internet connectivity could provide services like real-time point-of-interest updating, and even offer things like current coupons that could be sent to your cell phone automatically via Bluetooth. Merchant-specific content could even be streamed directly to your vehicle's entertainment system from your GPS system, and a slew of emergency response systems and locating features could be included. The possibilities are virtually endless when throwing Web access into the mix.

Imagine streaming your music collection directly to your vehicle in real time without the need for MP3 players, or automatically syncing your home playlists with your vehicle every time it's parked in the garage. With an audio system that utilizes Web-access, all this and more could now be possible.

I realize Chrysler isn't offering any of the above mentioned services, but providing the platform for such services in the form of go-anywhere Internet access shows us where the industry is going. Similar to Ford andMicrosoft (NSDQ: MSFT)'s Sync technology, it's the beginning of a new age in vehicle connectivity.

As more auto manufacturers jump on the bandwagon and in-vehicle Internet-access sees more consumer use, it's only a matter of time before we start seeing innovative new services and applications that meld together mobile Web access, mobile devices, and new age connectivity solutions such as Bluetooth to bring us a new age of technologically advanced driving.

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