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Wireless Networking Transportation Technology

Ford's New Cars To Be Wi-Fi Hotspots 196

Posted by kdawson
from the high-speed-internet dept.
clang_jangle writes "Autoblog and others are reporting on Ford's planned extension to its in-vehicle SYNC multimedia systems — to enable SYNC-equipped Fords as rolling Wi-Fi hotspots. Customers would use their existing cellular USB modems, so for already equipped road warriers there would be no extra monthly charges. While there are other ways to get your car online (Autonet Mobile review here), the SYNC system does look especially simple and practical. Last year BMW made some noise about FOSS for their cars, but they seem to have since stopped talking about it. Will we see a FOSS option for automotive infotainment systems in the future?" The capabilities of SYNC even without W-Fi look potentially pretty distracting. Unless Wi-Fi is blacked out for the driver, the safety implications of this development are worrisome.
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Ford's New Cars To Be Wi-Fi Hotspots

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  • by hedwards (940851) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:33PM (#30518720)
    This isn't really that much different than what's available presently. The same idiots that text and drive will have a new possibility. Anybody with any degree of prudence will use this at most to update directions on their GPS in real time. Well, while driving, when you're not driving it's pretty much fair game for whatever you want to use it for.
  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:48PM (#30518830) Homepage
    Seriously, what good is this to anyone? if you're in the car you would just use your SIM-locked USB modem that you pay 59.99 a month for and if you are outside the car then you would hardly stay connected long enough to send an email before the car you are stealing bandwidth from goes out of range.

    I never quite understood this idea behind putting the latest technological gimmick into a car. 802.11g will be obsolete in a few years, 802.11n soon after. The car should last 20 years so that means half way through its expected service life the wifi, the USB connection and the built-in GPS will be almost completely worthless.

    If i want my car to have a Wifi AP I will throw my own wifi equipment in the back. same with phones, GPS, all that stuff. Give me a bare minimum car such as the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrightspeed_X1 [wikipedia.org]Wrightspeed X1 but with the most efficient power system, the best batteries available and the highest quality components that won't break. Not putting worthless consumer electronic gimmicks onto a chassis that is supposed to last 20 years.
  • by mirix (1649853) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:58PM (#30518910)
    I should add, I agree with your sentiment entirely. I always get a kick out of ads that portray having a ipod dock or a 1/8" audio jack to be the main selling point of a $30k vehicle.
    Completely ridiculous.
  • Radio condenser (Score:3, Insightful)

    by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:59PM (#30518918) Homepage Journal

    I seem to recall that my older Honda had something called a 'radio condenser' or something similar linked in with the electrical system. It was supposed to stop the EMF from the spark plugs/solenoids/etc and if I recall correctly from my old haynes guide, the car wouldn't start without it.

    So this is just a question for anyone who works in the field: what effect, if any, does broadcasting and drawing current from a car's electrical system have on these hotspots?

    I'm just curious because the wireless things in my house seem to slow down all the time for things like my microwave, furnace, tv, etc being on.

    -b

  • by anglophobe_0 (1383785) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:00PM (#30518924)
    How the heck would you black out wi-fi for the driver? Cone of silence, engage! Besides, when I use my laptop while driving, I sit it on the passenger seat anyway. :P Also, the same people who would be guilty of "distracted driving" with wi-fi are the ones who do it with their phone. Take away their phone, they'll read a book (I've seen this). Take away the book, they'll get so engrossed in talking with their passenger, they don't pay attention. The best method of protecting other drivers is to get people to pay more attention to driving than anything else, not take away everything else. There'll always be some distraction you can't take away.
  • How funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:07PM (#30518970) Journal
    Over 12 years ago, I was part of a company that was going to do this concept for Buses in the Denver basin (RTD). The idea was to have one hotspot on the bus, and another doing the link. Then then we were to be given access to the Public Service lights to rig up more hotspots. Sadly, we turned it down.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:08PM (#30518978)

    You live somewhere without road salt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:11PM (#30518996)

    Not for driving, but when my car is parked in my garage, the only currently way I have to copy MP3s to it is to stick them on a USB stick and walk them down there.

    Why isn't my car stereo having 802.11 and letting me scp files over to it from my home network? I could then select whatever mp3s I wanted to listen to that week from my computer, or heck, even set up a cron job to rotate through my collection each night.

    Maybe there are some head units which support this, but mine doesn't (it's about 1 year old, Pioneer model).

  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday December 21, 2009 @09:44PM (#30519246) Homepage

    Unless Wi-Fi is blacked out for the driver, the safety implications of this development are worrisome.

    Seriously, kdawson, WTF is the above supposed to mean? WiFi is a wireless connection system. How the FUCK is the driver going to be distracted by a 2400mHz radio signal? This isn't like a TV on the dashboard, or a GPS full of fiddly touch screens, it's a bloody network standard. Even assuming that WiFi to the driver is somehow distracting (maybe a netbook balanced on the steering wheel) how the hell do you suggest they "[black it] out for the driver"? Magic radio curtains? A WEP key that randomly scrambles when you put the car in gear and appears somewhere the driver can't see it?

    Give up the attempts at clever editorializing. You don't have the gray matter for it.

  • by causality (777677) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:41PM (#30519694)

    As long as you are prepared for the economic collapse that will happen when every single driver who has a radio in their car loses their license.

    This is effectively a claim that such a law would have no deterrent effect. I know of no evidence for that claim and any measurable deterrent caused by any traffic law would contradict it. It stands to reason that holding people accountable for such a blatant disregard for the safety of others could only reduce this behavior.

    To put it another way, anyone who thinks their 'Net access is more important than the safety of others around them is being extremely selfish. Selfish people are already demonstrating that any arguments about the harm they cause others are ineffective on them. What is effective against selfish people is the knowledge that they will be held personally responsible for their actions.

    Besides, getting bad drivers off the road and with them, the accidents that they cause and all the lost productivity associated with that might help the economy. To suggest the opposite, that the autobody repair work and hospital/funeral expenses that go with those accidents is helping anyone would be an example of the broken window fallacy.

    Furthermore, there is such a thing as public transportation.

    One more thing. Just because you have a radio does not mean it must distract you while driving. It's abundantly possible to adjust the radio while you're stopped at a traffic light, parked, etc. It's also possible to be familiar with a radio's controls so that you can adjust it by touch alone without ever taking your eyes off of the road (good luck doing that with a Web browser -- makes me wonder why you mention radios). If you absolutely must adjust your radio and simply cannot wait, and you know it will be a distraction, you can pull over or something. That's an incredibly minor inconvenience compared to trying to sleep at night with the knowledge that someone got hurt (or worse) because you couldn't be bothered.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:47AM (#30521100)

    Seriously, what good is this to anyone? if you're in the car you would just use your SIM-locked USB modem that you pay 59.99 a month for and if you are outside the car then you would hardly stay connected long enough to send an email before the car you are stealing bandwidth from goes out of range.

    Because everyone else in the car can also use your SIM locked USB dongle via wifi? Because instead of one laptop using the dongle at a time, everything in the car can? And you're not going to have an unsecured hotspot in your car accessing your cell phone data plan, so no one is leeching off you.

    I never quite understood this idea behind putting the latest technological gimmick into a car. 802.11g will be obsolete in a few years, 802.11n soon after. The car should last 20 years so that means half way through its expected service life the wifi, the USB connection and the built-in GPS will be almost completely worthless.

    Simply put, no, it won't. Wifi will still be used, as will USB, hell I've been using Firewire for at least 15 years and its far less popular than USB or wifi.

    If i want my car to have a Wifi AP I will throw my own wifi equipment in the back. same with phones, GPS, all that stuff. Give me a bare minimum car such as the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrightspeed_X1 [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]Wrightspeed X1 but with the most efficient power system, the best batteries available and the highest quality components that won't break. Not putting worthless consumer electronic gimmicks onto a chassis that is supposed to last 20 years.

    Go ahead ... do it ... tell us how nicely integrated into the car you can get it, and tell us about all your issues with power controllers, inverters for power, wiring it all up without making a mess. Then tell me how long it lasts. Go ahead, get whatever you want for car computer hardware and put it in your dash ... Give it 2 years then tell us about how its working for you. Made it 2? Okay, give it 5.

    The car computer environment is far different than you think it is. The software sucks ass, feels like a kludge across the board because well, it is. The hardware is over priced and unreliable when you stuff it in a car that ranges between well below freezing in the winter to 150 degrees in the summer in a unshaded parking lot or under your dash taking heat off the firewall (The real one in your car, not software for networking).

    You aren't going to go buy anything that has the same level of ruggedness as the hardware they install at the factory, nor are you going to find anything that feels nearly as natural or looks nearly as good. I've been futzing with mine for the last 3 years as indash GPS wasn't an option for my car from the factory. Yes I can do wifi over cell, voice guided GPS, voice activated control of the PC, watch movies on the indash display, all sorts of shit you couldn't possibly imagine. You know what, I'd still rather have a factory system rather than the hacks I've put together based on someone elses shitty hacks.

    Nor are you going to have your car for 20 years. If you're following all the latest and greatest geek tech, theres a good chance you aren't still driving a 20 year old car, with the exception of maybe a classic, in which case this doesn't apply to you anyway, you're already accepting that you're going out of normal bounds. Likewise, if you are driving a 20 year old car, theres a good chance your computer hardware isn't bleeding edge either.

    Your post wreaks of someone who has no idea what he/she is talking about, or has even looked into at all.

  • Re:Radio condenser (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:11AM (#30521210)

    Alternators do not power your car, they recharge your battery using AC current and a rectifier, your electrical equipment would absolutely HATE being powered by the alternator. Its not even like AC in your house, which is a constant 50/60hz pretty much all the time. AC from your car alternator varies with your engine RPMs. In short, both Alternators and generators are EXTREMELY DIRTY power sources, especially when you consider most of them are directly connected, unfiltered to the battery, which also directly connects, unfiltered to the ignition system, which generates MASSIVE amounts of noise as it generates thousands of volts of energy for your spark plugs 2-80k times a minute or more, depending on engine configuration and operating range.

    Generators could be used to power your car electronics because they produce DC current straight out, but generators are extremely rare since an alternator can be controlled far easier as to what kind of output current it provides. I.E. an alternator requires external power to power electromagnets in it, which in then are used in conjunction with the mechanical rotating energy provided from the engine to produce more electrical output. By varying the input energy to the electromagnets the voltage regulator can charge your battery as needed without over charging and frying your battery. This can be done easily with a mechanical device for very little cost and an extremely high reliability. Doing so with a generator either requires high current capacity resistors to shunt the excess energy to the ground or to limit the flow to the battery. Because of the load potential, these resistors (or now days large power FETs are more efficient and reliable) have to be rather large and capable of dealing with dumping MASSIVE amounts of heat when the current is high.

    Generators provide an advantage in one case because you can still push start your car with a completely dead or missing battery. An alternator on the other hand MUST have external power to work, even if its just a little, so a battery is required.

    Back to the point, either way, you never power any devices directly from the generator or alternator because the voltage and current output from these devices is unreliable. Do you want everything in your car to stop working when a belt breaks or the generator/alternator or voltage regulator fail while you're driving? Do you want all the electronics in your car dealing with unpredictable voltage levels, like sitting at a stop light where most will not actually produce enough energy to sustain ALL the electrical requirements in your car if you use EVERYTHING at once. At this point your battery fills in the gap and drains slowly, but thats no big deal because you drive off shortly afterwords and the charge is replaced.

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