Chrysler will offer wireless Internet access in 2009 models

The struggling automaker's announcement comes shortly before California enacts a law that requires hands-free cellphone use while driving.

By Ken Bensinger, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 25, 2008

Have you ever thought rush hour on the 405 Freeway might be more bearable if you could check your e-mail, shop for a book on Amazon, place some bids on EBay and maybe even, if nobody is looking, download a little porn?

Then perhaps you should be driving a Chrysler.

The nation's third-largest automaker is set to announce Thursday that it's making wireless Internet an option on all its 2009 models. The mobile hotspot, called UConnect Web, would be the first such technology from any automaker.

Struggling Chrysler is hoping that providing motorists access to the information superhighway will set it apart from competitors and help reverse a dismal year; through May, sales are down 19.3% compared with 2007, the worst drop-off in the industry.

"It's a notion of always wanting to be connected wherever you are," said Scott Slagle, Chrysler's senior manager of global marketing strategy, who has been testing the technology since last week, allowing his daughters to surf the Web from the back seat. "There's a demand for that."

Coincidentally, Wi-Fi on wheels is being unveiled just days before new hands-free legislation goes into effect July 1 in California and Washington state. Those laws, designed to reduce accidents caused by driver distraction, prohibit talking on a cellular phone without a headset or other hands-free device.
Interesting. Dangerous but interesting.