In-Car Wi-Fi – Is It Worth The Expense?

In-Car Wi-Fi – Is It Worth The Expense?

As the IoT grows, so too does the number of connected items and the car is the next item on the IoT list. In-Car Wi-Fi is one of the many ways that the automotive industry is using to advance their involvement in the IoT. As awareness grows on the issue, more vehicle owners and buyers are warming up to the idea of internet-enabled vehicles. But the bigger question is whether in-car Wi-Fi is actually worth the expense. To answer this question, we must first understand how In-car Wi-Fi works, the expenses and whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

How in-car Wi-Fi works

In-car internet works in the same way as home internet. You need both the infrastructure and internet access to make it work. There are a number of methods of installing in-car Wi-Fi and each bears its advantages and disadvantages.

What most people expect to get from an internet-enabled car is full vehicle access, such as remote access, monitoring your car from your smartphone, etc. However, that option is only possible if the internet is fully integrated into the car systems, which is only done by the manufacturer. Therefore, if you’re looking for that option, you should buy a car that has in-car internet pre-installed by the manufacturer. Even so, you should still lower your expectations. We are still years away from a working fully autonomous vehicle even though we’ve made significant progress.

If you install the Wi-Fi yourself, using a dongle or your smartphone, you only have control over internet-enabled systems in your car such as the navigation and communications systems. The level of convenience is certainly limited from that offered through a manufacturer’s installation. Most of the vehicle systems, although electronic, are usually blocked from external access to limit the chances of a hack. So unless you hack into the systems and link them to your Wi-Fi to provide yourself with direct access, your options are limited.

What is the expense?

The cost of installation and running in-car Wi-Fi is dependent on the infrastructure and internet access. For instance, if you use your smartphone as the source of the hotspot, you cut down the need to purchase dedicated infrastructure such as modems, routers and dongles. As such the method of installation is a critical determinant of the expense.

Another equally important determinant is your internet service provider. We’re still very dependent on ISPs for internet access and to have internet in your car, you need the involvement of your ISP. The move to integrate cars in the IoT has seen ISPs capitalizing on the market by introducing dedicated data plans for the same. Even so, you can expect an increase in your data after enabling Wi-Fi access in your car. As far as cost is concerned, choose your ISP wisely to avoid high data costs.

The risks

The expense is not the only important consideration to make. The rise in cybercrime is certainly a worrying trend. But even more worrying is the fact that vehicle systems can be hacked. Internet-enabled vehicles can be hacked and controlled remotely, which increase the risk to your life.

Aside from that, you also have to consider the upgradeability of your car systems after installation. As the IoT matures, more infrastructure, systems and programs are bound to be developed for better car integration in the IoT. The concern for you then becomes the compatibility of these new systems with your old internet installation.

The verdict

The benefits of installing Wi-Fi in your car include better navigation, communication, entertainment, etc. However, as it stands, there are easier and cheaper alternatives to achieve the same benefits without the need for directly installing Wi-Fi in your car. With the risk of hacking being too high, and considering the unpredictability of the industry, it is more reasonable to wait before jumping to install Wi-Fi in your car. At the very least, you should wait until vehicle manufacturers can provide secure systems to minimize the risk. The IoT is fast-moving and in 3 – 5 years, there will be better, safer, cheaper and more convenient methods of installing Wi-Fi in your car.

Nevertheless, if you’re an early adopter and don’t feel the need to wait that long, you should ensure that you provide your own security. Make informed decisions about your choice of installation and ISP and make use of internet security measures such as VPNs, firewall and antivirus software.

Categories: Featured

About Author