Luxury Cars Go Wi-Fi

Internet access has become an integral piece of a car’s total package.

Apps that make Internet access easy are embedded in our social fabric as deeply as they are into our smartphones, not to mention some new automobiles—which have become rolling hot spots where an Internet connection is more than a convenience; it’s a critical aspect of the car’s functionality.

While smartphones can be linked to many cars via BlueTooth, Audi is going a step further by giving its luxury cars the ability to make their own Internet connection and enhance, for example, their navigation mapping by accessing 3-D Google Earth for a bird’s-eye view of a route ($30 a month via T-Mobile; audi.com). And web access isn’t just confined to a small screen on the dashboard. You can hook up to eight laptops or tablets to the WiFi signal.

Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, is including an mbrace2 system in many of its cars, allowing current apps to be updated or future ones to be downloaded from cloud-based 3G networks ($280/year; mbusa.com). As Mercedes recently demonstrated, cars may soon be able to access info from places they’re driving by—imagine passing a club while music from the band onstage streams into the car. It’ll put a whole new spin on cruising.