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The future of in-car internet

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Technology from our sitting room has always made the jump into the car on our driveway. Radio, TV, and phone calls are all available, but now it’s the turn of the internet. Thanks to advances in smartphone technology, it won’t be as expensive as you might think.

If you’re in the market for an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, then depending on the model, you can specify an internet connection, but it’s quickly spreading downwards.

Ford in the UK will offer its American pioneered net-based services next year on the humble Focus, while over in China manufacturers, such as MG owner SAIC, are already logging on drivers of models even cheaper than the Focus. The revolution has begun.

Ford Focus

The problem has always been, how to get the signal into the car. A dedicated 3G router is expensive and you’d need a second contract with your mobile phone company to pay for the data.

Newer smartphones, such as the iPhone 4 and Android 2.2 or higher models, can now share their data connection using Wi-Fi, turning the device into a portable hotspot. Tether your phone to the car and you’ve got access to the whole web.

Android Wi-Fi

That’s exactly the path that Audi (with a system dubbed Connect), Mercedes (Comand On-line) and Ford (Sync) are taking, linking with your phone to give you information far beyond that delivered by the sat nav. BMW’s route is slightly different, embedding a dedicated SIM card as part of its ConnectedDrive.

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