Where it's based: San Francisco, Calif.
When it was founded: 2005
Why it's Fierce: For years, automobile manufacturers have been looking for a way to provide persistent wireless connectivity for various high-performance telematics applications inside vehicles. So who better to bring that capability to market than Autonet Mobile's CEO and co-founder Sterling Pratz, former race car driver and telecom executive?
Using a 3G connection, technology from Novatel Wireless and its own patent-pending TRU technology, Autonet launched a mobile router that enables all passengers in a vehicle to connect to the Internet via WiFi-enabled devices. TRU technology offers the persistent link, even when 3G coverage is sparse. To date, Autonet has made deals with Cadillac, GM, Dodge and Jeep, to name a few, and recently scored a deal with Advanced Auto Parts, which is bringing an after-market wireless router to more than 3,300 stores nationwide.
Chrysler's new 200c EV concept car, recently revealed at the Detroit Auto Show, features some high-end applications using the Autonet-powered Uconnect web, the first WiFi entertainment system product designed specifically for cars. People with smartphones will be able to start their cars remotely, set temperatures and even view what's going on inside the car, thanks to an in-vehicle camera.
What's next: The future looks bright for Autonet Mobile as more car makers are expected to sign on with the company. But Internet access is just the tip of the iceberg; Internet radio and home-car content synchronization are on the horizon.