Opinion: Ford plans Wi-Fi on board

Ford, one of the failing auto industry's big dogs, announced it will nerd-out and bring Wi-Fi to a line of its vehicles.

Starting in 2010, SYNC-equipped Ford cars and trucks will use not only available communications technologies (such as hands-free calling, audible text messages, and real-time traffic), they will also be “rolling Wi-Fi hotspots.” This is perfect for when your school-age offspring needs to hop on the Internet for last-minute research, or — more likely — for businesspeople hacking out e-mails without paying much attention to the road.

Functioning much in the same way as hotspot cards from wireless providers, a small data card will be implanted in the vehicle allowing for connection without the hassle of cords.

All this may sound familiar. Last year, Chrysler turned a batch of its vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots as well. Uconnect, as the service is called, sounds a lot like Ford's SYNC, and less like the wireless Internet access Ford is promising for 2010. It's the same principle, though: bringing data connectivity to 2-ton torpedoes and calling it “convenient.” I was more impressed by MyKey, a Ford feature that protected drivers rather than putting them in possible danger.

My favorite sentence of the ReadWriteWeb report is: “The Wi-Fi signal is broadcast throughout the vehicle, and password protection will guard against piggybacking.” I can just picture roving bands of Internet-hungry families tailgating Ford SUVs on major highways at 75mph, weaving in and out of traffic to grasp the signal, frantically trying to get as much Net time as possible before the car takes its exit. I can also picture this leading to apocalyptic pile-ups a la “Final Destination 2,” but that's just me.

As great as the Internet is, I think there should be limitations on where it can be accessed. We already have enough problems with texting while driving and suits staring at Blackberries when they ought to be noticing the red light ahead — we don't need yet another distraction, especially when it comes to a matter of safety.

It'd be great if it was somehow only accessible from the backseat (picture a driver unbuckling and hopping in the back during a traffic jam to participate in a WebEx), but if it's going to be car-wide, it might spell trouble. But, of course, geekiness is huge, the Internet will never die, and car companies need to do all they can to keep on the edge, so nothing is going to stop this “handy advancement.”

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