Ford and Qualcomm bring the Net to your car

The information superhighway is literally nearly here

A joint venture between communications company Qualcomm and motor giant Ford is set to provide wireless services and Internet access for motor vehicles. Initially, the new venture will be known as Wingcast.

Unsurprisingly, the services will first be produced for Ford's own fleet, but the company is also working with Nissan to get the Wingcast services into high-end vehicles. By the end of 2002, more than a million new Fords will be net enabled, and all new models will be online by 2004.

The goal, the companies say, is to provide drivers with access to information, navigation, safety services and entertainment from their cars or trucks. The services will initially be available in North America using the cdmaOne networks. High speed wireless data will become available as third-generation cdma2000 and WCDMA networks roll out.

However, RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) has some reservations. "If it is only available to passengers then we don't have a problem with that but if there are internet services accessible to the driver, then we would ask Ford to think again," said Dave Rogers, RoSPA's safety adviser. "Anything that distracts from the road is a bad idea, and promotes accidents," he said.

"Cars and trucks will soon become the fastest growing mobile platform for seamless communications and digital information services," said Hadel Kodesh, Wingcast's chief executive.

There is a Web site at www.wingcast.com which doesn't seem to be anything to do with Ford or Qualcomm. Its been registered by Jameson Abart of Knoxville, Tennessee. He may be lucky and get some money or get kicked off his site for cybersquatting. Who knows? Its a lottery. There is nothing there at the moment except the word "Wingcast" with yellow waves emmanating from the dot on the i.®

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