COMDEX - Wireless LAN-enabled cars

  • John Cox (ARN)
  • 14 November, 2001 12:40

Mercedes-Benz USA is showing off a c320 Sedan that's been outfitted with an IEEE 802.11a LAN based on a radio chipset from Atheros Communications.

The demonstrations show off a rather startling opportunity for extending the reach of IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs, and making them, in effect a pervasive wireless net that could rival at least some data applications over existing or future cellular nets.

Web and media content is radioed from roadside all-weather access points via an interface card to the sedan's onboard computer. The demo shows a driver selecting and buying music or other digital media heard on the radio. The selections are downloaded to the car's computer when it passes what Mercedes calls a "DriveBy InfoFueling station."

The high-speed transfers are done by the Atheros AR-50000 chipset, operating at up to 54M bit/sec. Future uses could include access to up-to-the-second map data and information on road and traffic conditions and local attractions. A Mercedes release said trucks and other commercial vehicles could exchange data on cargo status, fuel and so on, as they drive past truck stops or gas stations.

Atheros announced separately that its chipset was used in the Federal Highway Administration's tests to create an interoperable standard for high-bandwidth telematics, which are applications that combine automotive, computer and wireless connectivity. As a result of the tests, using gear based on the Atheros chips, the American Society for Testing and Materials selected the IEEE 802.11a Road Access (R/A) extension as this telematics standard.