My 6 year old has repeatedly asked how to spell some of her favorite websites when using a laptop in the back of our car on family trips, and been disappointed to learn we can’t YET access the Internet from our car. Her perception of the Internet’s pervasive ubiquity is interesting and understandable, I suppose. We access this invisible world of content wirelessly at home on a regular basis, so why shouldn’t we be able to do the same thing in the car where our cell phones work fine?

Due in part to these discussions, I’ve reflected that we’re probably not far away from a day when that will be possible. It has been possible with wireless PC cards that operate on cell phone networks for awhile, but those network connection speeds are relatively slow in most areas in the US I think– only about twice as fast as a dialup connection at present. But speeds are getting faster, and so are the mobile options for getting online. According to today’s CNN article “In-car Internet hits the road” consumer auto-wireless solutions are now hitting the market:

Devine’s van is equipped with TracNet, a system that allows passengers to access the Internet on a vehicle’s video screens. Launched in September by Middletown, Rhode Island-based KVH Industries Inc., TracNet brings the Internet to the installed screens in a car, truck, RV or boat. It also turns the entire vehicle into a wireless hot spot, so passengers can use their laptops to go online.

Since users are still subscribing to a wireless phone service to get online, I’m not sure why many people would opt for this when they could get a portable wireless PC card for their laptop that could be used anywhere there is cell coverage by their provider– inside the car or outside, for a lot less than $2000. I think wireless cards are still going for around $100. I’m looking forward to wireless cards switching from the older PC card format to the newer and faster ExpressCard/34 slot included on computers like the MacBook Pro. (I don’t have a MacBook Pro at this point, but maybe someday…)

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