When Stephen Devine drove with his family from their home in Massachusetts to New York City, he spent two frustrating hours trying to find a place to
park his 9-foot-high camper van, which won't fit in most garages.
In the end, his 17-year-old daughter found a place to park online -- and she didn't even have to leave the van to do it.
Devine's van is equipped with TracNet, a system that allows passengers to access the Internet on a vehicle's video screens. Launched in September by
Middletown, Rhode Island-based KVH Industries Inc., TracNet brings the Internet to the installed screens in a car, truck, RV or boat. It also turns
the entire vehicle into a wireless hot spot, so passengers can use their laptops to go online.
KVH also makes TracVision, which provides satellite TV service in vehicles and boats; TracPhone, a satellite communications service for boats; and
precision navigation and guidance systems for the military. The company had 2005 revenue of $71.3 million, including $49 million in mobile satellite
The current price is $1,995 for the automotive version of TracNet. The system operates on Verizon Wireless' high-speed network, which costs another
$60 to $80 a month. There is also a $10 monthly charge for MSN TV, the service from Microsoft Corp. that brings the Internet to TV screens. The
consumer provides the screens.
An MSN TV portal provides access to e-mail, instant messaging, weather maps, chat rooms, news and other features. While Web sites outside of the
portal are fully accessible, most are not formatted correctly for TV screens and may not look quite right, even though the content is all there.
Another limitation is the system's dependence on the Verizon network: Where there is no cell phone service, there won't be any Internet access
As with TracVision, TracNet can be used on a screen visible to the driver only when the car is in park. When the vehicle is in motion, that screen
automatically switches to navigation.