Over the past several weeks I’ve had the chance to travel by limo bus (via the Boston-New York Limoliner) and today by plane where WiFi is complementary. This flight, Delta 1001 from Boston Logan to Atlanta is packed but comes with complementary WiFi from GoGoInternet. In fact this post comes via aircraft WiFi and satellite (I believe).

Slow, but great for lumpy transmissions like this posting process. In fact the most painful part of this process is the fact that I have to turn off the WYSIWYG editor of the content management system, and go with a plain Jane HTML editor since Apple doesn’t support Flash on the iPad. But, other than that annoyance, it’s a pretty solid experience.

I’ve been meaning to write about a Gigaom article I saw about the growing availability of WiFi in modern cars, and the whole trend towards smarter vehicles. Probably in 1995, when I was the Internet evangelist for my employer, I developed the idea that it would make sense to put an IP address on cars. At the time, I limited the promotion of the idea since wireless networks were just migrating to digital service from analog, and the only benefit that I could see was it could become a convenient method for the state to track stolen cars, fugitives and wanted persons associating with known vehicles. It could also be used to record vehicles traveling faster than the posted speed limits, a la the hated photocop technology currently deployed in the Phoenix area. Yuck. Some positives, but many negatives here.

Fortunately, the devices have gotten cheaper, smaller and faster in the last fifteen years, and the apps available include network gaming and entertainment playback of movies and shows. so, a WAN connection to the car, with a distribution WiFi gateway in the car a la mobile phone tethering makes plenty of sense for improving the passenger experience, but what about the driver? What’s in this for her?

Well, I see cool apps being made available such as:

  • navigation
  • traffic management (congestion caused by accident ahead, shall I reroute you?),
  • trip-specific news (“price of gas at the Gilderland rest stop ahead is $3.10 per gallon. It is 15 cents cheaper at Lee rest stop twenty two miles further. At present speed you can make it in eighteen minutes. You have sufficient fuel.”)
  • voice-activated games perhaps about the area surrounding the highway you’re driving on. Route 90 for example drives through New York state passing neat little towns like Amsterdam, Mohawk and other settlements that were made famous when the Erie Canal came through in the early 1800s. The word game could be a contest between the driver and other drivers traveling the same highway, like a kind of Jeopardy or some adaptation of Wheel of Fortune that doesn’t require seeing the word layout.

Getting the driver to participate in non visual activities and services like these few suggested here, can only improve highway safety since it would help them concentrate while driving instead of passively consuming talk radio or the latest pop music. Radio services are better left for the local driver, who is only driving a short local distance and has sufficient changes in road surface, street directions, elevation and other drivers in nearby lanes to keep them fully engaged. Besides, thats who the advertisers are aiming for anyways. The smart car with communications should really a benefit for drivers and passengers in ways that help safety and comfort.