Automotive entertainment systems have come a long way since the 1930s when the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation introduced the first car radios.
Manufacturers added FM to radios in the 1970s. Then came the 1990s, when minivans offered built-in video systems so small back-seat passengers could watch DVDs instead of harassing Mom and Dad.
What's next? General Motors says its in-car Wi-Fi. The carmaker is introducing Chevrolet Wi-Fi for its Equinox, Traverse, Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche and Express models.
GM says this dealer-installed system enables full Internet access inside the vehicle, and up to a 150 feet radius around the vehicle, with a laptop or mobile Wi-Fi device.
"Chevrolet Wi-Fi by Autonet Mobile enhances commuting, family vacations and work," said Chris Rauser, Chevrolet Accessories Manager. "It benefits active families on the go, as well as professionals who need immediate information at remote job sites. Its uses are almost endless."
While it might be yet another way to keep the kids quiet in the back seat, business users who already have a smart phone might find the service redundant. The equipment costs $199 (after $200 mail-in rebate) and $29 a month on a two-year contract. Those who already have a Verizon Blackberry, for example, can pay an extra $30 a month and connect their laptops anywhere within the network, not just in their cars.
While it was only a matter of time before the Internet came to the automobile, there might be more useful applications than the one GM has come up with. Instead of creating another way for passengers to connect to the Internet while riding, why not instead replace the car's audio system with a device that streams Internet radio?
For example, instead of being stuck listening to one of a dozen adult contemporary radio stations in your city, you could drive down the Interstate listening to your own station on Pandora, or any of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of stations around the world that stream over the Internet.
With an Internet "receiver" as part of a car's entertainment system, the choices are almost endless. Best of all, the driver could get some benefit from it as well.