Dashboard Jukebox

Coming soon: an in-dash computer that can accept wireless downloads of songs from your home or office.

The in-dash CD player just might be poised to go the way of the eight-track tape deck. Coming soon: an in-dash computer that can accept wireless downloads of songs-and even movies-from your home or office. You would drag files to an icon on your PC’s desktop representing your vehicle’s entertainment center, and a wireless Internet connection using the popular Wi-Fi standard would beam the data to your parked vehicle.

Moving tunes to cars “is the killer app” for wireless vehicle technologies, says Bob Schumacher, head of the Kokomo, IN-based wireless business unit of Delphi, a major auto supplier. “It’ll be like having a jukebox in your car.” Indeed, Phil Magney, principal analyst for the Telematics Research Group in Minnetonka, MN, says drivers will want Wi-Fi in their cars for the same reasons “they want broadband on their computer”: to quickly get video and music.

Already, another wireless technology, Bluetooth, is showing up in optional equipment for some cars, enabling hands-free cell-phone chatting by connecting the phone to the car’s audio system. Unlike Bluetooth, Wi-Fi has high bandwidth and a range of more than 100 meters-enough to beam tunes to your wheels. Some car parts suppliers have started making Wi-Fi-enabled sound systems. Delphi says it is working with at least two unnamed automakers to put Wi-Fi into cars as original equipment, which could hit showrooms by 2007. And once Wi-Fi is on board, drivers could also check their e-mail, download news or traffic reports, or even control Internet-linked home heating systems when parked near Wi-Fi nodes. But for starters, it could mean the end of CD cases stuck between the seats.

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