I just finished playing with the forthcoming MSN-TV/KVH in-car broadband system.
It uses a 3G cellular connection to put Internet connectivity in your car. The system consists of a box that handles the wireless connection, optimizes the Net for in-car screens, supports a wireless keyboard, and sets up a Wi-Fi hot spot in and around the car at the same time. Check back soon for my quick video tour of the rig. You can see my quick video tour of the rig here
. This may not be the ultimate model for in-car broadband, but IP, in general, could trump radio broadcasting, dedicated GPS systems, and in-car DVD players if they get it right.
I've always heard that rear-end fender benders are what keep car insurance companies up at night--it's their number one claim. So a new Nissan technology might help a gecko or two sleep better: an automatic distancing system
that enables a car to maintain space between it and the vehicle ahead by controlling the accelerator and braking better than you do. It's sort of like adaptive cruise control
but for low speeds, not cruising. High-end Nissans will offer it in Japan a couple of years from now. I honestly can't imagine it showing up in the United States anytime soon since that would implicate the carmaker in any rear ender where the system was in use. What car company needs that headache?
The town of Indianola, Iowa, now has more to boast of than just the National Balloon Museum. There's a 2Mbps broadband connection in all its police cars for things such as fast access to criminal databases and live in-car monitoring of networked security cameras around town. It's all done over a secure layer that keeps this sensitive stuff from ordinary citizens using the same fixed wireless network. It's not Wi-Fi or WiMAX but rather, a proprietary 900MHz technology from WaveRider running on license-free spectrum.
European notebook: I just got back from 10 days in Britain, France, and Switzerland as part of my trip to cover the 2006 Geneva Auto Show. Some thoughts: Virtually nobody in Europe drives while talking on a cell. It seems weird to me now. Are we on the wrong side of this one? Europeans take driving seriously. The high-speed interactions of cars on their auto routes are like a ballet; U.S. drivers just sort of bumble and jerk around by comparison. Turbodiesels are God's gift to real-world driving. I had a 2006 Volkswagen Golf TDI that was so great, I looked into a VW European delivery program while I was over there. I probably would have bought one if they had it. It's not the same Golf we can buy over here. Does France have a mile of bad road? I drove some 800 miles across that country on nothing but glass-smooth asphalt. Delightful. Street signs are a wonderful U.S. tradition. They don't seem to use them in Western Europe--makes it tough to find your hotel when you arrive in a strange city at 1 a.m., in a Hertz car that doesn't offer NeverLost.
In this era of alternative fuel research, BMW has always been the crazy uncle off in the shed working on hydrogen. Not hydrogen fuel cells, just hydrogen--the kind you burn and the kind that caused substantial issues for the Hindenburg. Undaunted, BMW is sticking its chin out and saying it'll sell a hydrogen-burning 7 Series within two years. They'll actually be flexible fuel cars running on either hydrogen or gasoline so that you don't get stranded.
Check out the Google-powered navigation system Volkswagen is working on in its Silicon Valley labs. We checked it out a couple weeks ago, and you can see it here. Why isn't this on the market now? Maybe Google just wants to keep it in one of its famous multiyear betas.
Is BMW completely crazy or does it have something with its hydrogen project?
VW and Audi factories are going to jettison XM and offer only Sirius satellite radio from 2007 to 2012. Who greased whom to make this dumb decision? Losing either of the sat radio platforms needlessly complicates the car-buying process. If you love XM (or have prepaid for two or three years of it) but also love a Jetta, you're stuck. You may well look for another car. VW says it expects to see 80 percent of its cars delivered with Sirius starting with the 2007 model year; Audi says it already sells half of its cars with one of the satellite radio flavors. They could have at least hitched their wagons to the vastly more popular XM.