One in five new cars built worldwide will contain a Bluetooth wireless networking chip by 2007 so that drivers can use hands-free mobile phone headsets while driving, according to a report by New York-based technology thinktank, Allied Business Intelligence.

For safety reasons, the UK government is pushing to ban the use of mobile phone handsets while driving and similar legislation is likely to be enforced in other countries. In recognition of this, some Saab, BMW and DaimlerChrysler models already offer Bluetooth hands-free kits as options.

Take up of Bluetooth headsets, such as Ericsson's HBH30, has been slow, and with a low volume of sales, prices remain relatively high: the HBH30 costs £135.

However, a basic Bluetooth chip costs about $7 — low compared to the overall cost of a vehicle. Once car makers start building in Bluetooth circuits as a matter of course the price will drop, reasons ABI’s report.

Although it will be the need for using mobile phones while keeping both hands on the wheel that will drive the use of Bluetooth in cars, once there, the circuitry will find other applications, such as remote diagnostics, downloading audio and even paying for fuel.