Mar.07 - Cars are going online, with more and more new vehicles connected to the internet. Julian Satterthwaite reports from the Geneva motor show on what happens when cars hit the virtual highway.
Cars are going online. Forget satellite navigation - that's already old hat. At the Geneva auto show this week the big firms are engaged in an arms race to see who can fit the biggest screen and most powerful in-car computer. These aren't just flights of fancy. Ford says all its new vehicles will be connected to the internet by 2014. Volkswagen is more cautious on the timeframe, but already has some internet-connected cars. Electronics director Volkmar Tanneberger says the next step is to break down the barriers between phone and car: (SOUNDBITE) (English): Volkswagen director of electronics Volkmar Tanneberger, saying: "Technologies in focus: one, connecting the infotainment system in the car with the internet, and the second focus is to connect mobile devices to our infotainment system and to make all the information and all the data from your mobile devices available with your infotainment system." Much of what is coming certainly will be familiar to smartphone users. Touchscreen interfaces are fast becoming the norm. Apps are arriving in-car too - from Google Earth, to software that will read out your Twitter stream. REPORTER TO CAMERA But that's just the beginning. The Micromax from automotive consultancy Rinspeed is envisaged as part of a swarm of smart vehicles, shuttling around the city, picking passengers up and dropping them off on demand - and letting them work or play as they move. CEO Frank Rinderknecht explains: (SOUNDBITE) (English): Rinspeed CEO Frank Rinderknecht, saying: "The connectivity for the Micromax is very important because we think of an urban swarm, meaning there are many Micromaxes driving around and you jump from one car to the other one depending on your route, so you are much quicker and more efficient than for example with public transportation or your own car. " There are concerns some in-car apps will distract drivers, with potentially fatal consequences. Industry consultant Jay Nagley says there's also a sense that cars are now not the focus for young people anymore. (SOUNDBITE) (English): Jay Nagley, Managing Director of Redspy, saying: "Ford think that having the best technology will be a way of making their cars sexy. What worries car manufacturers, especially ones based in America and Japan, is that young people see cars as receptacles in which to put their interesting stuff. They don't see the cars as interesting any more." That wouldn't be a problem if the car could drive itself of course. Such vehicles may only be at the concept stage - but these days the future tends to arrive sooner than you expect.