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94 per cent of drivers want wireless Web – oh, really?

But actually it seems they only want driving data, and couldn't care less about email...

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The world is poised to beat a path to the door of companies offering in-car wireless Internet services, according to a recent survey carried out by E-valuations.com. Allegedly. Unfortunately the sample base and the interpretation of the data seems just a wee bit skewed. The survey was carried out for InfoMove, which by happy coincidence is a Seattle-based company specialising in the delivery of in-car wireless Internet applications. "Demand for automobile-based Internet services rates high in driver survey," claims the release: "94 per cent of Internet users are eager to receive Internet-based turn-by-turn directions, predictive traffic information and vehicle diagnostics while on the road." The sample of 517 home-based Internet users who drive to work was carried out online, so you'd kind of expect the base to be relatively techno-savvy, and receptive to the notion of in-car data. The 94 per cent seems to have been assembled from the people who want any such services, as six per cent said they didn't want any kind of wireless Internet services in their vehicle. But tellingly, the stuff the positive respondents seem to want isn't all necessarily anything to do with the Internet. The highest number, 75 per cent, want turn-by-turn driving instructions, but in-car, non-Internet applications such as Autoroute Express deliver something of this ilk, whereas if you're using GPS (InfoMove's systems seem to) in the raw the system isn't actually accurate enough to deliver turn-by-turn in built-up areas. The UK's proposed speed limiter system, incidentally, adds a Radio Differential GPS signal to increase accuracy to one metre (and doesn't use the Internet), but it's not clear if InfoMove does this. Along with this, 74 per cent wanted real-time speed trap warnings (not necessarily legal everywhere, this, and as you're relying on effective local data collection, probably something of a pipe-dream), while 72 per cent wanted live, localised traffic alerts. But that's not a definite Internet app either, is it? Cellular systems in the UK deliver this already, with Vodafone and Cellnet working with the AA and RAC to dish out free receivers to their respective punters. It works - sort of, and some of the cars even talk, which can come as a shock if the rental company didn't mention it to you beforehand. 70 per cent of respondents wanted vehicle diagnostic information, and 61 per cent of respondents saying that estimates of repair costs and maintenance schedule reminders delivered wirelessly to their vehicle would be useful. One might wonder how useful, considering that for most purposes local vehicle diagnostics will be all that's used. But here comes the killer. The survey found that 78 per cent of those identifying themselves as "early technology adopters" want in-car email access but that, ahem, only 7 per cent of the general sample did. Depending on how you look at it, and bearing in mind that the general sample consisted of Internet users, you could read that as pretty bleak news for in-car Internet uptake. ®

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