Rogers Communications and U.S. wireless carrier Sprint announced today they will soon be offering Canadians high-speed wireless internet access in new vehicles.
The cost of the project, pricing for the services and dates for the rollout weren't included in a joint statement issued by the companies, which operate two of North America's largest telecommunications networks.
A Rogers spokesperson confirmed to CBC News that the new service will be available within the next year.
The press release said the service will be available from auto manufacturers that deploy Sprint's Velocity system in Canada and it will leverage Rogers' wireless networks to connected vehicles on the road.
New vehicles will be manufactured with a machine-to-machine (M2M) SIM card for built-in wireless network connectivity.
“I think people are trying to figure out from an automotive context, or an in-car context, how you make these things relevant to what the person is doing in the car at that time,” said Rogers vice-president Mansell Nelson.
Vehicles with Sprint Velocity — which has already been deployed in the U.S. — will have access to news, sports scores, weather alerts, driving directions and vehicle diagnostics via an in-dash touch screen.
Sprint Velocity also provides in-car connectivity for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Rogers says Canadians "want to be connected from anywhere, at any time."
And with over 20 million vehicles on the road in Canada," Nelson said. "There is a strong growth opportunity for Rogers in the connected auto segment."
'Priced pretty competitively'
Nelson said the new services will be “priced pretty competitively” and suggested that vehicles may “become an extension" of a customer's "broadband sharing plan."
"I think you’re going to see a lot of integration with the car into the broader Rogers product offering,” he said.
The connected car market is expected to be a booming business, with research suggesting nearly 100 million connected cars will be on the road by 2016.
'I think you’re going to see a lot of integration with the car into the broader Rogers product offering.' - Mansell Nelson, Rogers Communications Inc. vice-president
While hand-held devices are creating an ever-growing list of distractions for drivers, Sprint Velocity comes equipped with in-car safety features that both companies hope will alleviate the issue.
“I think we’re concerned about it, as we are with driver safety in general, and trying to work with the original equipment manufacturer on what measures they're taking to attempt to control this,” Mansell said.
Sprint Velocity's integration into the car will mean certain features, such as watching a movie, will be disabled while a driver is operating the vehicle, Mansell said.
“The challenge with the smartphone today is it’s not integrated with the car and you do whatever you want,” he said.
Other features include a cellphone disabler when the vehicle is travelling over eight kilometres per hour, and the ability to "hold a text message while driving."
Canadian Automobile Association spokesperson Ian Jack said technological improvements in the vehicle were good as long as they don't take the driver's attention off the road.
"There are some positive safety implications for this but on the other hand most of the research out there suggests distracted driving is becoming one of the leading causes of crashes," he said.
Research at the University of Utah funded by CAA and its U.S. partner, the American Automobile Association, has suggested devices that engage a driver in a "two-way conversation," meaning talking on a cellphone or typing on a device, tend to be the most dangerous.
"Even voice-activated texting, where you speak and it converts it into a text message for you, is an area that we have concerns about," Jack said.
"It's not the fact that it's technology, or that it comes in bits and bytes, it's what it does to you as the driver," he said.