GM to offer WiFi hotspots on certain vehicles

DETROIT -- General Motors is making an Internet router available as a dealer-installed option on select vehicles throughout its Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet lineup.

The device, from Autonet Mobile, of San Francisco, creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that extends 150 feet within and around the vehicle, allowing occupants to use portable devices to tap into the Web.

Initially, the Internet access will be available only in GM's vans, SUVs, crossovers and trucks -- vehicles most likely to be used by families.

The idea is that rear-seat passengers can use laptop computers, game players and other portable devices while people in the front seat can use the connection to stream Internet radio stations into the vehicle.

“Ninety percent of customers prefer surfing the Internet over just watching movies,” Sterling Pratz, CEO of Autonet Mobile, said in a statement. “Customers want the biggest brands the Internet has to offer in their car, such as Facebook, YouTube and FlyCast Internet radio.”

The mobile device also is intended to help small businesses stay connected.

Dealers will begin offering the router this month. It is also sold on a GM accessories site, www.gmextras.com. The retail price is $499. Internet access runs about $29 a month.

The Autonet device comes with a docking station, meaning it can be moved from one GM vehicle to another.

Autonet also supplies Internet routers for Chrysler, through its Mopar accessories unit, and Volkswagen.

You can reach Leslie J. Allen at lallen@crain.com

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