DETROIT -- As more automakers race to offer onboard infotainment and communications systems, wireless networks will play an important role in keeping cars connected. And wireless connectivity over mobile networks will transform the way people use cars, the chief of Sprint Nextel Corp. said today.
“Suppose you should show a husband and wife who travel a lot with their kids a car with Internet access and a connected rear-seat entertainment system, one with Windows, WiFi and 500-gig hard drive,” CEO Dan Hesse said at a meeting of the Detroit Economic Club. “A system that can not only play the DVDs that you remembered to bring, but while the car is traveling, access your home computer and your complete files of videos, music and entertainment.”
Hesse said Sprint is working with a major U.S. automaker to make it happen. He declined to name the manufacturer.
Last week Sprint said it won the wireless network contract for Hyundai's Blue Link infotainment system. The system, which offers similar services as GM's OnStar and Ford's Sync systems, will be available on the Sonata sedan in March and on the Veloster coupe later in the year.
Sprint also is working with Ecotality Inc., a producer of electric vehicle charging stations, to link their Blink network of chargers wirelessly. As part of that smart grid, EV drivers could find a charger, pay for its use and receive advertising over Sprint's wireless network.
In the past, Sprint collaborated with Ford's Work Solutions unit to bring wireless computing to the F-150, the F-150 Super Duty, E-series vans and the Transit Connect. These vehicles have an optional onboard computer that allows the car to be used as a mobile office when parked.
As Sprint continues to activate its 4G network service across the country, Hesse said consumers will eventually demand the same technology in their cars.
“Imbedding 4G in vehicles will take longer,” he said. “It's probably about two years away from where there is enough there to move the needle.”