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S P E C I A L: The Web: What next?

IBM shows Internet-ready car

The car November 18, 1997
Web posted at: 2:56 a.m. EDT (0256 GMT)

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) -- International Business Machines Corp.'s booth at the Comdex computer show has an unusual device for accessing the Internet -- a car.

At the industry's biggest trade show in Las Vegas, IBM demonstrated a car that lets drivers surf the Internet, catch up on e-mail, get navigation help and drive at the same time.

The car is a result of a joint effort of IBM, Delco Electronics, Netscape Communications Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., who formed an initiative to create the "Network Vehicle."

The car is a working concept that employs technologies already in use, such as IBM's voice recognition software, so that the user can verbally request the computer to read aloud e-mail messages, locate a restaurant or hotel, in a safe manner that does not interfere with driving.

IBM said most of the technology could be made available to consumers in as little as 18 months as add-on's to their existing vehicles. Early versions of Network Vehicles could be available in as little as four years or less, depending on the development cycles of new car models, IBM said. Daimler-Benz demonstrated a Mercedes wired for Internet access at the Tokyo Auto show last month.

The Network Vehicle accesses the Internet via a satellite connection, using Hughes Electronics DirecTV and DirecPC satellite link. The car also includes an integrated cellular phone, Netscape's Communicator software for browsing the Web, a touch-screen color flat panel for cockpit control and Sun's Java language.

The car also has a heads-up display, developed by Delco Electronics, that projects onto the windshield -- similar to the display used by jet fighter pilots to navigate their destination or to check the vehicle functions without taking their eyes off the road.

Passenger seats are equipped with individual terminals for interacting with the Internet, watching television or playing video games.

The four companies said they are meeting with automobile manufacturers to demonstrate the advantages of adopting these technologies into automobiles.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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