DETROIT – At one time, it was desirable for a car to be an extension of your right foot.

In the future, according to Chrysler LLC, a car will become an extension of your brain.

The auto maker uses the North American International Auto Show today to display its vision of the connected cockpit, which enables motorists to stay in touch with themselves, their loved ones and the world around them – with fingertip control.

The concept is the handiwork of a dedicated team within Chrysler to improve cockpit design and functionality.

Frank Klegon, executive vice president-product development, says the concept portends direction for Chrysler’s UConnect suite of electronic features, which affords functionality ranging from hands-free phone operation to wireless Internet access, which is new-for-’09.

UConnect is designed to “provide unprecedented convenience to consumers,” he says.

The cockpit concept is reconfigurable to suit the occupants’ aesthetic tastes, while also accommodating personal preferences in music via MP3 compatiblity.

Even seating positions are considered in the design, as interfaces such as keyboards can be operated by the front-seat passenger. The keyboards also can be passed to rear-seat passengers.

Internet connectivity will facilitate activities such as consulting guidebooks like Zagat when making dinner reservations on the fly. Passengers also can use the keyboard to consult GPS navigation, run vehicle diagnostics and even read the owner’s manual.

And just as the vehicle’s owner might have a page on Facebook, his or her car could have a website to maintain contact with “buddy vehicles.” Chrysler says friends also would be able to locate each other’s positions through individualized “vehicle networking systems.”

On the home front, Chrysler imagines the cockpit of the future establishing a “harmonious link” between home and vehicle, or office and vehicle by adjusting home/office lighting and tapping into intercom systems.

emayne@wardsauto.com