Chrysler announces in-car Internet

June 27, 2008 // 8:20 a.m.

Tags: #chrysler #dodge #hotspot #internet #jeep #uconnect #wifi

American car manufacturer Chrysler has announced plans to build WiFi connectivity into its vehicles.

According to an article published by CNet yesterday, the 'automobile' manufacturer is to produce the unfortunately named 'Uconnect' add-in for around twenty different models of Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge branded vehicles. Once installed, the add-in will allow a range of features you never knew you needed in the car.

The feature list is pretty impressive: a somewhat paltry 30GB hard drive allows storage of photos, videos, and music in WMA, MP3, or AAC format; built-in hands-free for Bluetooth-enabled 'phones and a central contacts list stored within the system itself; built-in GPS with voice-recognition; Backseat TV, which is apparently a rather daft trademark of the SIRIUS Corporation, with three channels of “family TV programming” alongside over a hundred channels of satellite radio; and, last but not least, Internet access.

It's this last feature that's likely to get heads turning: by bundling a WiFi-to-CDMA/GPRS gateway with the system, Chrysler are able to offer on-the-go Internet access anywhere you can get a mobile signal. Now, why you wouldn't just use your mobile I'm not entirely certain, but I'm sure Chrysler have performed a survey of their target demographic here.

Although feature-packed – if we ignore the 30GB hard drive – it's questionable how many of the veritable cornucopia of delights would actually be of use. While things like in-built Bluetooth hands-free and voice-activated GPS navigation are unquestionably handy, I'm not so sure about the ability to play videos back through my car – especially as you can only do that “when the vehicle is in Park.” The Backseat TV option is certainly going to appeal to families, but how much extra entertainment the three channels – Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network – would offer over a cheap 'n cheerful third party in-car DVD player is questionable.

Another major sticking point is going to be cost. Although someone plumping for a top-end vehicle like the Dodge Grand Caravan (no, seriously – I'm reading from the Chrysler website here) isn't going to baulk at a few thousand extra for a kick-ass entertainment system, the TV and radio stations are going to require monthly subscriptions – as is the mobile link for the Internet connectivity. How much this fee is likely to be has yet to be announced.

Would any bit-tech readers be interested in having a hotspot-on-wheels, or do you do old-fashioned things in your cars like talk to passengers? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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