Auto makers to use wireless chips

CIOL Bureau
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By Dan Sorid

LOS ANGELES: Exploring the potential of wireless technology, auto makers will incorporate short-range wireless communications chips in one of five new vehicles by 2007, according to a study released on Thursday. Market research firm Allied Business Intelligence said the promise of dashboard mobile telephone dialing, more advanced stereo systems, and even more efficient car production has made automakers consider the use of wireless chips.

Farther out, car companies are exploring the use of long-range wireless to warn drivers when other cars are too close, and to allow emergency vehicles to communicate with surrounding cars to clear a path on the road. Safety, it turns out, is a focus as car makers study the feasibility of potentially distracting gadgets in the car. On Wednesday, General Motors Corp. said it has granted $100,000 for a university study on the brain activity of caffeinated, sleep-deprived and multi-tasking drivers.

The initial move to wireless in the car will be mobile telephones, said Allied Business analyst Frank Viquez, with luxury car makers like BMW and Mercedes experimenting with digital dashboards and steering wheels that will dial numbers on the driver's phone. Chrysler is due this year to release its "UConnect" hands-free car kit, signifying the introduction of Bluetooth -- a short-range wireless communications standard -- in a production vehicle.

But phones are only the beginning. Viquez said Toyota Motor Corp. is looking to replace the wires that connect car stereos to the vehicle with wireless transmitters and receivers. And Ford unit Volvo, Viquez said, has experimented with equipping its car-building robots with Bluetooth wireless capability to allow better communication with central computers.

The car is certain to eventually raise new sets of privacy concerns. Viquez said automakers could use Wi-Fi long-range wireless to gather information on how a driver is treating a vehicle, and to better gather information on scheduled car maintenance. Meanwhile, General Motors is funding a study by Wayne State University School of Medicine that will use brain images to learn more about driver performance during distractions.

"The imaging technique shows the actual portion of the brain while they are being used in processing sensory information during driving tasks," Gregory Moore, co-director of the research study, said in a statement.

© Reuters