Why GM should go all out with hot spots

If General Motors wants to take the industry lead in installing Internet hot spots in its vehicles in coming years, then it should go all out.

GM needs to make the cable industry uncomfortable by making these hot spots robust enough to become householdwide connections while the vehicles are parked in a garage. That means engineering the hot spots to stay on when a vehicle is off.

As my colleague Mike Colias reported here on Feb. 25, there seems to be a lot of internal discussion about this at GM.

Auto dealers must be salivating at such a sales tool. Imagine telling potential buyers they can replace their household Internet connection simply by driving the vehicle home. And having a hot spot anywhere they drive? There is some real potential here. If nothing else, having a hot spot in the vehicle would be a good backup for those of us who often work at home.

Let’s be clear: The hot spot should first meet all the needs of a driver and passengers -- particularly passengers who want to connect a laptop, smartphones or tablets to the Internet.

Safety advocates will argue that a hot spot provides another potential distraction for drivers. But these distractions already exist and must be addressed by laws and a driver’s common sense.

As for replacing a home Internet connection, it wouldn’t work for everyone -- especially for a family with multiple Internet users and multiple drivers. And GM engineers would have to find a power source for the hot spot while the vehicle is off. Maybe that means a dedicated small battery or even a power cord adapter that could be plugged into a garage outlet.

Ultimately, GM has an opportunity here to provide a technology perk for motorists that transcends the driving experience. Let’s see where it goes with this idea.

You can reach Philip Nussel at pnussel@crain.com

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