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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 @07:33PM (#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 modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:41PM (#30518788)

      sync has built in text to speech and will reply with a set of 15 predefined responses. Sync is much better than standard texting regarding safety.

      Lets also not ignore:

      Auto dial 9/11 when you get in an accident, car health reports, voice only GPS with up to date road conditions and rerouting, Heuristics of said GPS that learns your typical routs, voice commands for making calls, stereo bluetooth support for devices with that capability.... and next year they will open the SDK up, allowing even greater integration between smartphone apps and the sync system through custom apps meant to communicate with the app on the phone.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by trapnest (1608791)

        9/11 is a date.
        911 is a phone number.

      • by ls671 (1122017) * on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:55PM (#30519346) Homepage

        > Heuristics of said GPS that learns your typical routs

        What's the use of this feature ?

        I mean if I already know the route, what is the advantage of teaching it to the GPS ?

        I assumed that one typically wanted the GPS to show him the route to follow, not the other way around ;-))

        Thinking of it, this may be useful if you are getting old and/or beginning to forget your routes, teach them to the GPS while you still can ;-)

        • by sleeper0 (319432)
          Probably helpful to the thief if your car is stolen, they can head right to your house while you're still trying to find out if it's been towed even if you don't actively tell the car where your home is.
        • by TBoon (1381891)

          I assumed that one typically wanted the GPS to show him the route to follow, not the other way around ;-)

          My Garmin has built in bluetooth handsfree and MP3 player. On familiar routes that is my primary use for the unit, with the safety camera warnings and trip-data as nice secondary features. It is quite annoying to have the GPS tell me to turn around so I can make a turn that would take me 15 minutes extra. (My arrival estimate actually drops when it gives up and eventually agrees with my route). I actually see no reason why (higher end) offline units can't do the same. However, with an online unit gathering

        • by jpmorgan (517966)

          Traffic.

        • It knows current traffic conditions and can automatically inform you of problems along your rout to work for instance

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        A couple notes:

        All the stuff you listed for Sync is basically available on every OnStar equipped car in the world except for maybe stereo bluetooth, which is okay since anytime bluetooth is involved you're just talking different levels of shitty.

        The SDK for Sync already available for the previous 'versions' of sync under a different name.

  • safe? (Score:3, Funny)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:35PM (#30518740) Journal
    combined with this product [amazon.com], what's the problem?
  • Linked with WiMax? (Score:2, Informative)

    by myfreelunch (1705360)
    Linked with WiMax, this might be useful. 3G speeds are just too slow.
    • You don't use 3G, do you? I typically get around 120-160 KB / sec with 3G.
    • by WoLpH (699064)

      3G too slow? I get over 500KiB/s when downloading something in the train here. When it comes down to basic surfing, anything beyond 2Mbps is good enough for me.

  • Leo's new Mustang (Score:4, Informative)

    by vrmlguy (120854) <samwyse@NoSpAm.gmail.com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:46PM (#30518818) Homepage Journal

    Leo Laporte (host of This Week in Tech) recently bought a 2010 SYNC-equipped Mustang, and seems to like it a lot. (Of course, Ford is an advertiser, but otoh he bought the Mustang with his own money.) http://leoville.com/to-the-twitmobile [leoville.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      I just got a image in my head of Leo Laporte happily tooling around town in a Mustang, wearing one of those hideous Hawaiian shirts he used to wear on The Screen Savers. Now that's a funny image.
  • by earls (1367951) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:47PM (#30518822)
    The god damn mother fucking cars should talk to each other with their fucking radios and space the fuck out . What the fuck is so fucking hard about this and or not typing profFUCK anyway then you don't need stop lights. the driver can just sit back. the fucking gps/laser range/wireless car comm drives thef ucking car fuck
  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:48PM (#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 owlnation (858981)

      The car should last 20 years

      You've obviously never owned a Ford. I'd be willing to bet current wireless standards will be around longer than most new Fords.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        I've got a ford and it runs just fine with 90k miles on it, the only repairs i have put into it were the result of an unfortunate mailbox incident and normal wear items like plugs, wires and tires.
        • douch bags who think American cars suck are about as intelligent as the douchbags who think BJs from hookers is a sex life.

      • Fuck you. Current Fords are rock solid.

    • by QuoteMstr (55051)

      Why does everyone (including manufacturers) suppose the only upgradeable component of a car's electronic system should be the radio? What's the harm in allowing the wireless module to be replaced with a better one in a few years?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You live somewhere without road salt.

    • 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.

      Not necessarily [allworldcars.com].
    • Ever heard of after market upgrades? Custom kits? Replacement electronics? It's an industry in the billions.
    • 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

      Forgot to add this in my other post. Anyway, what about car pools? Multiple passengers with laptops sharing the same modem. How about devices that have Wi-fi but no practical USB port? Book readers, MP3, PSP/DS,

      • for those situations wouldn't a portable device with similar wifi/3G functionality be more useful than something that is for some reason permanently attached to a car?
        • Equivalent in functionality yea, but not "set and forget" though. I think it appeals to the appliance mindset: always available. My car has a built in radio even though I could easily bring my own radio. It's convenient not having to worry about it and knowing it's always there. Also if the car is a company car, no one has to worry about who has the Wifi/3g thingy or chase down the person who has it.
          • Yeah... I love the loan policy on the air cards for the PC and then when you go to get them from the person who is suppose to loan them, her list is full of people who have had them for months.

    • If i want my car to have a Wifi AP I will throw my own wifi equipment in the back

      Not much equipment needed. Personally, I just take my rooted G1 running Cyanogenmod and run any of a number of WAP apps. For that matter, the Cyanogenmod firmware has USB tethering built-in.

    • by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:47AM (#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.

  • Some other subsidy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is a great idea... except it's in the wrong people's hands.

    With it, I'd like peer2peer like distribution. I know these people, and they write scripts (using google wave), performances - both visual and aural.
    These are the mobile version. The distribution unit can be housed in the bottom of a block of flats.

    This is how my 21st century utopia would begin.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:53PM (#30518868)

    Last year BMW made some noise about FOSS for their cars, but they seem to have since stopped talking about it.

    I can't imagine why: http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-41146.html [spiegel.de]

  • Radio condenser (Score:3, Insightful)

    by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday December 21, 2009 @07:59PM (#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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by adolf (21054)

      Answer to your question: Nothing. The power supply for the radio will inherently be rather well isolated, as it's very easy to do in the conversion from 12V that the car produces to the 5V that the USB radio uses.

      Answers to your quandary: Microwaves the same bit of spectrum that WiFi does, except with something in the neighborhood of 1,000 Watts instead of the ~0.060 Watts that your access point uses; it doesn't take much microwave leakage before interference happens. Try different channels; it sometime

  • by anglophobe_0 (1383785) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:00PM (#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.
    • by causality (777677)

      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.

      Proposed solution: don't try to stop them. Just pass a law stating that if you cause an accident (i.e. it is your fault) and there is evidence that willful/preventable driver distraction was a factor, you lose your license for ten years with no exceptions and no possibility to obtain it sooner than those ten years, no matter how minor or major that accident was. Now if we can also get something like this for tailgaters who rear-end the guy in front of them (easily the most preventable and most stupid acc

      • because over the top penalties are deterrences to behavior of those disposed to behaving in such manors... oh... wait... they're not.

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

    Good grief. Yes - by all means, let's put the driver in a freaking faraday cage so they don't surf porn while they drive. That will make the world safe from the abomination that is mobile internet.

    The only worrisome thing on the road to me is the judgment of the people around me. The idiots who can't read the "keep left" signs on the on ramp. Those people. Deal with them first - then you won't nee

  • How funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:07PM (#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.
  • Correct headline: “Ford's New Cars To Be Wi-Fi Hackspots ”

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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,

    • by adolf (21054)

      I've wanted that for at least a decade.

      However: With space being so cheap lately, it's rapidly becoming practical to have all of your music in your car all of the time, anyway, on a cheap FLASH device that doesn't mind the temperature variations like an HDD does.

      Furthermore, with bandwidth being so cheap and available lately, it's rapidly becoming practical to have all of your music in your house streamable to your car, wherever it is. I've been doing this with my Droid, lately, and it works fine.

  • Use your imagination (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:14PM (#30519018)
    > Unless Wi-Fi is blacked out for the driver, the safety implications of this development are worrisome.

    I'm not the least bit worried. Just think of the apps you can create for the driver if a car were wi-fi connected. Heads up displays for upcoming traffic problems, weather, etc. Constantly upgrade your car's navigation system with updates and patches that download while the car is parked. etc, etc.

    Your fear is based on what you know now. You should instead base your hopes on those good things you can imagine.
    • by vanyel (28049) *

      Come back from a quick trip to pick something up:

      Driver to car: start
      car to driver: Please wait, download 1% finished estimated time 20 minutes...

  • Having a wifi in my car sounds interesting. But I cannot imagine you'd keep a good connection while driving around. Is anyone aware of a solution of getting a shoutcast stream to play in a car that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Their is simply no industrial / ebm / futurepop music on the air in the US, not even satellite radio carries any (last I checked, please tell me if anyone knows if that has changed), I just want to be able to listen to Digital Gunfire [digitalgunfire.com] in my car. I keep asking Santa to bring me this
    • by Puls4r (724907)
      Really? That's interesting. I just drove all the way across the state of Michigan, from Port Huron to Grand Rapids, and was streaming video and downloading files using my Sprint USB mobile broadband. All so we could get ready for a robotics presentation we needed to do. No black outs, no lost connections, I had 60-100% connection the whole time. I would imagine 3g coverage in well-covered high-density cities would be even better.
      • by Tynin (634655)
        128 kilobyte stream is 131,072 bytes/s. Listening to music to and from work is a 60 minute round trip 5 days a week.

        131072 * 60 seconds * 60 minutes * 5 days * 4 weeks = 9,437,184,000 bytes for the month = 8.789 gigabytes of data usage. This doesn't count the weekends or before/after work activities that involve driving.

        Sprints $60 a month mobile broadband plan only allows 5 gigabytes of transfer, then it is $0.05/megabyte. That leaves me with 3879.93 megabytes (i.e. the remaining 3.789 gigabytes) of
        • get an mp3 player and buy the cds?
          • by Tynin (634655)
            Yeah, that has been my solution. I'd just like the freedom of not having to chose what band / song is playing or bothering to put in the time to get together a good set of music. I prefer just to turn on the music and let whomever is broadcasting worry about the mix. I guess I'll keep waiting for the price on phone data plans to come down. I just find it pretty crazy that 20 hours of a 128kb stream comes out to $254 a month.
        • by grumbel (592662)

          A 128kb MP3 is bits, not bytes, so divide the whole thing by a factor of 8.

          • by Tynin (634655)
            Doh! Thank you very kindly! Time to work the math again.
            • by Tynin (634655)
              Excellent, that works out to 1.1 gigabytes used for 20 hours of 128kb stream, so I could get by comfortably with the Sprint plan. grumbel, thank you again for pointing out my error.
    • Allow me to shamelessly plug my own station (in my sig) if you're into that type of music.

      That said, my friend brought my station up on his iPhone. Seems to me that'd be a way to do it -- stream it on a phone and plug that into your head unit's aux jack.
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday December 21, 2009 @08:44PM (#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.

  • Problem? Yes, I'm getting a failure to establish my IPSEC tunnel from the car router to my fixed site and I don't seem to be able to setup for WPA2 enterprise authenticated clients and... hello? hello?

  • Yeah... all the technology could be distracting. As an adult you kind of need to have some self-control and the sense to avoid doing stupid things that could get you killed or injured, like texting while adjusting the radio while eating while driving a speeding ton of metal down the road.

  • Wardriving is going to become quite a bit more difficult and confusing.

    Wait a second. Come to think of it... with the right kind of hacking/reverse engineering, this could be a real boon to wardriving!

    Not that I condone wardriving. I'm just saying.

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

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • If you really want drivers to pay attention, mandate some C4 and a metal casing in place of the steering wheel air bag, such that any event that would have triggered the air bag instead sets off the grenade. Require older cars to be retrofitted or destroyed. Publicize the consequences of hitting something widely.

  • In Soviet Russia, drives war you!

  • Can't believe no one has posted this yet: http://xkcd.com/440/ [xkcd.com]

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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