Chrysler will offer wireless Internet access in 2009 models


The nation’s third-largest automaker is set to announce Thursday that it’s making wireless Internet an option on all its 2009 models, according to The LA Times. The offering, dubbed UConnect Web, would be the first such technology from any automaker. Chrysler is hoping that providing drivers access to the information superhighway will set it apart from competitors. Needless to say, the system will be able to stream audio.

"It’s a notion of always wanting to be connected wherever you are," said Scott Slagle, Chrysler’s senior manager of global marketing strategy, who has been testing the technology since last week, allowing his daughters to surf the Web from the back seat. "There’s a demand for that."

Chrysler says that when the car is in motion, the service is intended to be used only by passengers. The company acknowledges, however, that there is no way to prevent a driver from steering with one hand and Web surfing with the other.

Chrysler is not the first company to offer Internet access in cars. Avis Rent A Car introduced Avis Connect in January 2007. Like UConnect Web, Avis Connect (which costs $10.95 a day) operates on the 3G network using a cellular-based signal.

UConnect Web is an extension of the company’s UConnect system, which provides Bluetooth connectivity for cellphones and MP3 player integration with the car stereo. Rival Ford provides similar services, but without Web access, in its popular Sync system.

With the added Internet connectivity, drivers and passengers will be able to get such devices as laptop computers and Nintendo Wii consoles online. As to what users can download while in the car, Chrysler’s Leung said anything was fair game.

RBR/TVBR observation: Radio shouldn’t be quite as alarmed as satellite radio at this development, because as folks choose to spend disposable income on subscriptions for car internet vs. car satellite service, they will likely choose internet, because streaming Internet audio would be free with the package. And remember, someone listening to a streaming, terrestrial radio station a thousand miles away in their car would be credited in the online ratings and that station would benefit with online ad dollars.

Another thing to note is streaming video content will be on board as well, opening up more online views for the networks and other content providers.