Chrysler's Uconnect Picks Up Wireless Hotspot Technology as It Spreads Overseas

By Jacob Brown | August 07, 2012
When Chrysler introduced Uconnect, it didn't leave well enough alone. It kept refining the cloud-based software it developed, and in doing so, it made it one of the easiest-to-operate infotainment systems out there. Now it's going a step further. Partnering with phone service provider Sprint, Chrysler is creating a Uconnect system with embedded wireless technology that it plans to roll out first in the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup truck and SRT Viper this fall. Using the wireless hotspot technology, Uconnect will have an expanded number of features, including voice command for speech-to-text messaging and navigation destination inputs in a single step. It'll work a lot more fluidly, like Apple's Siri. Additionally, a pay-per-use in-car Wi-Fi will be available for passengers using laptops without having to tether their phones to their computers, a feature which is already available in a limited number Chrysler vehicles. Uconnect will also have a feature that'll let users lock or unlock their cars with their phones, much as OnStar allows users to do. Sprint seems to be pretty proud of the technology.
"When we look at the automotive industry, when we look at the car, we see another smart phone," said Matt Carter, president of wholesale and emerging solutions at Sprint, in an interview with The Detroit News. "And what we're really good at is really innovating customer experiences, devices, underlying platforms and bringing all of those together to create the kind of customer experience that we hope leads toward responsible driving for the passenger and driver." Additionally, Chrysler is looking at sharing Uconnect with Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Abarth—run as a separate brand overseas—and Maserati. We're surprised Ferrari isn't on that list, too, since they're all under the same umbrella and all use the same infotainment technology. That's right, if you haven't yet figured it out, your $200,000 Ferrari California shares its infotainment system with a $35,000 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, albeit it's plastic is painted silver in the Italian stallion instead of black. Currently, Chrysler is looking at how overseas markets use infotainment systems and how to tailor Uconnect for China and Europe. Engineers in Turin, Italy, and Shanghai, China, are working alongside a team in Auburn Hills to best adapt it. "It’s a same set of experiences (for all drivers), but it’s prioritized a little different," said Marios Zenios, head of connectivity and entertainment for Chrysler, in an interview with Wards Auto. Zenios wouldn't specify when it was coming out, but Uconnect would surely be a part of the company's world strategy as Fiat and Chrysler merge ever closer into a single unit. Sources: Detroit News, WardsAuto