Are GM’s Wi-Fi Cars the Future?

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There was once a time when people worried themselves over how fast a car could drive. Soon, motorists may not be as worried about their car’s driving speed as they are about its data speed. General Motors (NYSE:GM) has announced plans to launch cars featuring 4G LTE connectivity.

GM first launched an in-car communication service more than a dozen years ago with OnStar, which helped drivers when they experienced trouble with their cars. But OnStar’s features were limited, and so was its connectivity.

Now, GM will be getting help from AT&T (NYSE:T) to offer an in-car 4G service, which will turn vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots, letting passengers fulfill their data-consumption needs on the road. The car could stream video content to passenger displays or let the driver make easy, hands-free calls, all with 4G speeds.

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So, while GM cars essentially become giant smartphones on wheels, it begs the question: is this solution any better than a 4G tablet or smartphone? Given a car’s size, it’s possible that one may have a better radio for getting 4G signals, but that is not necessarily the case. Also, considering that most smartphones have features that make hands-free calling and the works quite easy and taking into account the fact that 4G cars may come at a premium, it’s hard to judge whether there’s really any value in the latter.

The first cars featuring this technology are planned for the 2015 line-ups of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac automobiles, and they should available for purchase sometime next year. Though details on how GM is implementing the technology are limited, the manufacturer seems to be making it a standard feature, which could be critical in the future relationship between the auto and mobile carrier industries.

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