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On the Move

Your next WiFi hotspot won’t be in your home but your car

And it’s something that car manufacturers are starting to include in their vehicles as part of the connected car movement.

THINK OF SMART cars and the first thing that will likely pop into your head is Google’s self-driving cars. While it’s exciting to think of driverless cars, the real introduction of smart cars will be less eye-catching and more practical.

Driving is part of it but your car will become more practical and versatile as time goes on. One new addition is WiFi, which may seem far fetched considering how spotty reception can be in certain parts of the country, but it could help keep you connected even when your phone can’t find a signal.

That’s a future many car manufacturers see as they build upon in-car navigation and it’s something that Opel OnStar, a subsidiary of General Motors, is introducing into its cars.

The idea is instead of relying on mobile data, you can use a proper WiFi connection to access apps and generally enjoy a more streamlined experience. The connection can support up to seven different devices at any one time and it can work as a hotspot if required.

The benefits to this are significant. Using a mobile connection can be a mix of trial and error, WiFi is generally more consistent with its connection so you won’t experience too much downtime.

From testing it, the speeds are generally decent, if not amazing. It’s enough to do some of the heavier tasks like watching a video on YouTube, but it won’t be fast enough to stream HD video or broadcast something via Periscope or Meerkat. Even if it was, the data packages are tailored more towards mobile devices instead of laptops as they range between 200MB to 5GB.

So how does it work? All cars are fitted with antennas and, therefore, use cellular data to pick up signals. Since they’re much larger than what you would find on your phone, it has a much better chance of picking up a signal than your phone, giving it more reach.

Although the real litmus test is how well it will deal with blackspot areas in Ireland, something that won’t truly be tested until it arrives here in 2016.

The service would be best suited for those who commute regularly. Having that constant connection would be handy for those who like to listen to Spotify on the go or have podcasts downloading and ready to go while they’re on the move. The same will apply to families who keep their children entertained through games or YouTube videos to name a few.

WiFi for Opel OnStar cars will be rolled out in 2016 with the first 12 months having ‘unlimited’ use. A price for the service has yet to be confirmed, but it will be on top of your OnStar account and generally costs between $5 – $50 per month in the US for 200MB to 5GB plans.

Read: How you deal with car crashes is going to change pretty soon >

Read: An Irish woman’s ‘Hailo for cleaners’ has just been bought for €32 million >

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