Mobile internet access generally refers to accessing the web from your phone. But what if mobile started to mean more? What if it incorporated systems that allowed you to access the web from your car, while you were driving? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate in mobile? After all, cars are designed with mobility in mind.
In-car computers used to belong to the realm of science-fiction. They were a pipe-dream and nothing more. Now though, it seems that every major IT player is developing technology that will make that dream a reality. Microsoft is busy with Auto, a system that allows for voice recognition, as well as navigation and emergency response services. It currently has a contract with Ford, but that will expire soon and it’s expected that either Hyundai or Kia will pick it up.
BMW is working on a system that will allow unrestricted access to the Net in all of their new 2008 cars. There are some restrictions in place, however, as the technology will only be available in Europe, at least for the time being. BMW has also wisely limited the access of front seat passengers so that they can only use the service when the car is travelling under 3mph (4.8kph). Front seat passengers searching the Net are one thing, but the idea of drivers searching for information is terrifying, regardless of how slowly they’re going. Back seat passengers, meanwhile, are free to interact online to their heart’s content, whether they’re bogged down in traffic or cruising the open road.
The ATX Group, who consider themselves the “largest independent telematics services provider to the automotive industry” have been developing initiatives to address the safety issues surrounding in-car computing. Their partners in this endeavour are the Connected Vehicle Trade Association. One of their proposals includes a generic top-level domain that would “dumb down websites” while they’re being used in vehicles. An article in engadget.com proposes text-to-speech software that would read text aloud, enabling drivers to concentrate on the road ahead.
Finally, Intel is working on a vehicle-friendly version of its Moblin OS. It’s a Linux-based system, which runs on atom processors and will control in-car systems as well as multimedia functions. It also allows third-party developers to build applications and services that can be added to the platform.
In-car computing sounds like a terrific innovation and a significant step forward for IT-related industries. Traffic authorities, who are still struggling to get a handle on drivers using their phones while travelling, will bear the brunt of its disadvantages, however, and may not view it as favourably as others. Data recovery specialists, on the other hand, can expect business to go through the roof with the influx of hard drives damaged in automotive skirmishes.