What would we do with 802.11 in our car

I wrote some time ago of how I would like a car's MP3 player/computer to have 802.11, so that when it parks in my driveway, it notices it is home and syncs up new data and music.

That would be great, of course, but it seems there should be other things you would do with it. Networking with the car next to you on the road seems like a cool idea but I'm having trouble dreaming up applications. Listening to the music in the next car seems cute but probably would be boring after a while. Being able to talk to the driver of the next car seems like a nice social game (and it hardly needs 802.11) and might just result in road-rage.

If common, I could see it for dating, since people seem to attach a strong romantic image to making eye contact with an attractive person in another car. There was even a dating service I read about long ago which gave you bumper stickers so you could contact somebody if you felt sparks. The personals have a section for this.

You might be able to create longer mesh networks, to share traffic info or the sort of things you used to share on CB if there are enough cars, but this would be highly unreliable, and any application here might be better served by broadcast data that goes over longer ranges. (We are already seeing broadcast traffic data services, though they will never warn about speed traps, I suspect.)

And of course, if you can connect back to the internet that's highly useful, but again this would be highly intermittent connectivity. 802.11 isn't really set up for short-burst connectivity though one could create a protocol that was, good enough to fetch live audio etc. But this ends up being just another microcell network -- what can we get car to car?

So -- all sorts of cute little applications but nothing really compelling in my view. But since we will get wireless networking in our cars for the carport sync, I invite readers to dream up some apps.


I deal with digital mapping and related data, so that's the kind of stuff that springs to mind. The digital map providers already have live traffic data feeds, and they're working on live updating map data as well. So using such technology to keep in-car navigation data up-to-date (as compared to using cellphone technology, the way OnStar systems do) is probably a desired thing, especially since this kind of data requires more bandwidth than most other applications.

Certainly there would be some usefulness in downloading digital car maintenance and diagnostic information periodically to a central storage and analysis site, so a driver can perform Quicken-like analyses on the various diagnostic aspects of a vehicle. It can be used to monitor gas mileage. There are already similar aftermarket technologies which parents can use to monitor their kids' driving habits, and this would make it trivial. But there's a serious privacy downside to such things, as such information can be legally used against you (to prove, for instance, that yes, you *did* drive 50 miles that night, which happens to be the round-trip distance to your ex-wife's house).

Through an internet-enabled computer, it might allow automatically-uploaded upgrades to a car's firmware, much the way Windows allows automated updates. That's both promising and a bit unnerving (what if someone launches a DOS or trojan attack on your car?).

Brad said, "Networking with the car next to you on the road seems like a cool idea but I'm having trouble dreaming up applications."

If an 802.11-equipped car sent a signal if its driver braked hard, or if its airbags went off, cars in range might chime a warning light, which the driver could choose to act on or ignore. If you are in thick tule fog in I-5 and your warning light goes off, you brake...

Has somebody launched efforts for 802.11 handoff? Power control on this scale? Network selection would also need some work.

But surely, if the applications are compelling the little technical hurdles can be overcome.

So far, there's been enough debate over Voice (telephony) over 802.11; I'd think that checking the map & hotel availability (online) while parked at a truckstop would be enough to move this forward.

Of course what I really want is internet connectivity. In a moving vehicle 802.11 probably isn't it. Why would I want that? Like many people I commute 2 hours a day. With a connection to the internet I could do voice browsing, have my mail read to me, send voice messages and so on. Now we could get voice browsing through our cell phones back to either our home computer systems or to more centralized servers. That would be quite acceptable as long as the access is not chopped up too badly into various commercially packaged pieces. The same cell phone could be used for other things like syncing up our music collection and so on assuming the cell technology is sufficient.

Yeah, I wouldn't mind going cross country with a camper like that.. Not only would I be able to experiance a good out doors life, but the world is at my fingertips also.

Hi, Brad!
The driving accident is among the most common ways that people get hurt and die. Increasing driving safety is a very good idea. (Unless you think society still needs this Darwinian pressure!) A google of: automatic driving control convoy turns up stuff like : "Convoy driving through ad-hoc coalition formation" and "Vehicle to Vehicle Communication Outage and its Impact on Convoy Driving." Clearly, there's significant research in this area. 802.11 would make a usable secondary, and perhaps primary communication method. If all 802.11 is based on collisions and back-off (and I'm not sure it is), a wireless token-based protocol like TDMA or a wireless version of Token Ring should be used instead for a RTOS application like this.)
I just read the second paper mentioned above, and would say it doesn't give this layperson great confidence in these ICAR systems, as the conclusion "Thus the [maintain current acceleration] strategy is better for maintaining convoy stability." is IMO reached prematurely, and the vehicle spacings simulated: 9, 12, 15, 20, 25 and 30 are too few to capture the effect of highly non-linear interference shown in the table.

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