GM plans to embed its vehicles with high-speed Internet connection

Feb 26, 2013

In an effort to gain momentum in the race for supreme vehicle connectivity, General Motors unveiled a plan, Feb. 25, at the Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona, Spain, 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, a wireless Internet connection with mobile data speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G technologies, according to a press release from the automaker.

Because the in-car system will not require drivers to own a smartphone, the availability of GM’s 4G LITE Broadband will free users from such outside devices. GM’s decision is clearest indication yet that automakers are moving toward embedded solutions, rather than relying on drivers’ smartphones to connect them to infotainment offerings such as online radio or live traffic and navigation information.

“In addition to allowing consumers to bring in and connect to personal mobile devices, the vehicle will also act as its own mobile device, enabling embedded vehicle capabilities,” said Mary Chan, president, GM Global Connected Consumer. “Turning this vision into a reality starts with enabling fast, reliable and responsive connectivity within the vehicle. Through this built-in 4G LTE connection we have the opportunity to reinvent the mobile experience inside a vehicle.”

Although the automaker did not release any information about the cost of the feature, vehicle owners will likely have to pay for the 4G LITE Broadband rather than having the Internet connectivity channeled from their smartphones, which they already pay for.

The first GM cars, trucks and crossovers to get 4G LTE will be most 2015 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models in 2014, but the automaker said it plans to announce more carrier and supplier relationships to expand 4G LTE capabilities in markets around the globe.

The new system will still allow smartphones to connect to touch-screen infotainment systems, but the 4G LTE connection will provide new capabilities such as streaming video for backseat passengers, real-time updates and faster application downloads, the automaker said.

GM’s step to offer the mobile broadband may be bold, but it is not the only automaker to do so. Audi will offer 4G LTE service on the A3 in Europe this year and in the United States in 2014, Mercedes-Benz launched a system embedded with slower 3G technology for most of its models last year and Chrysler Group offers an embedded 3G system on three nameplates, according to Mike Colias for Automotive News.