Information superhighway: Chrysler to turn 2009 vehicles into mobile Wi-Fi hotspots

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UPDATE JUNE 25: Here’s a more detailed version of this story that ran in today’s paper.

... there is no way to prevent the driver from surfing and driving simultaneously. “We’re relying on the responsibility of the consumer to follow appropriate legislation,” said Keefe Leung, Chrysler’s engineer for the product.


In that case, California drivers can breathe a sigh of relief: The law going into effect on July 1 doesn’t proscribe use of computers or the Web at all, except for drivers 18 years of age or younger (there is a bill in the state Senate that would make computer use illegal, however).

The UConnect Web device, which will be hidden within the car, will work only with the key in the ignition to help ward off piggybacking on the signal. It will operate on the 3G network using a cellular-based signal, Leung says, and will allow download speeds between 600 and 800 kilobits per second, with upload speeds of 200 kbps.

Chrysler is introducing the device as a new feature in its UConnect system, which provides Bluetooth connectivity and MP3 player integration with the car’s stereo, similar to rival Ford’s Sync. The Web connectivity, however, ratchets things up a notch.

Asked why such a device is necessary, Scott Slagle, senior manager for global marketing strategy at Chrysler, said: “I just think there’s this whole thing of the super-connected society. It’s a nation of always wanting to be connected, wherever you are. There’s a demand for that.”

As a fun added feature, Chrysler said UConnect Web would allow passengers in Chrysler vehicles with TV monitors –- such as minivans –- to hook up Net-connected video game consoles including the Nintendo Wii. Whee!

-- Ken Bensinger

Bensinger, a Times staff writer, covers the auto industry.

Wi-Fi icon courtesy of Dana Spiegel via Flickr