DETROIT -- General Motors, laying down a high-stakes bet on the future of vehicle connectivity, plans to make each of its cars an Internet hotspot with a high-speed broadband connection.
By mid-2014, GM will team with AT&T Inc. to equip most 2015 models in the United States and Canada with 4G LTE broadband, the fastest type of wireless Internet connection now available. GM says it eventually will offer the service across nearly its entire global lineup.
Most in-car systems now require a linked smartphone to get Internet content such as Pandora online radio or live traffic information. GM's plan to build in wireless capability will untether users from outside devices.
GM's decision is the strongest signal yet that automakers are moving toward embedded solutions, rather than drivers' smartphones, to offer a faster, more-reliable connection to infotainment offerings.
Perhaps just as important, hard-wiring cars with broadband will make it easy to upgrade infotainment units without hardware changes so buyers aren't stuck with an outmoded system a year or two after purchase.
It's unlikely GM's hotspots would remain active when the vehicle is turned off -- providing a household Internet connection from a garage -- but details are still being developed, a GM spokesman said.
"A lot of those types of details haven't been finalized just yet, but like most in-vehicle technologies you can probably expect it to work for a certain amount of time after the ignition is turned off and then time out eventually," the spokesman said today in an e-mail.
"So a customer wouldn't be able to solely rely on their vehicle to provide Wi-Fi for their entire home. Obviously, any route we go, we'd want to make sure it doesn't negatively impact the driver experience, like draining the battery for example, which is what would happen if we left the Wi-Fi hot spot on the entire time."
GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky unveiled the plan today at the Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona, Spain.
Although GM's proposal is the most ambitious bet on embedded broadband so far, it's not the only one. Audi will offer 4G LTE service on the A3 in Europe this year and in the United States in 2014.