Chrysler's new infotainment system connects without smartphone
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- New versions of Chrysler Group's Uconnect infotainment system this fall will, for the first time, connect to a cellular network in the United States without an onboard smartphone.
The vehicles will use the Sprint network in a partnership with Chrysler, the companies said in a joint statement today.
Previous versions of Uconnect required onboard smartphones to access a cellular network. The new technology will debut in the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup and 2013 SRT Viper.
Consumers will pay Chrysler a subscription fee for the service. Most automakers are developing ways for consumers to use their smartphones to connect autos to the Internet.
Sprint controls about 20 percent of the cellular phone market in the United States, third behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless. In geographic areas where other cellular providers have network access but Sprint does not, the Uconnect system will be able to access those data networks without additional costs.
Harman International will manufacture the head-unit for the cellular-based system, which will allow consumers to use voice commands to do Bing-powered internet searches, read and write text messages, and enter navigation destinations without multiple prompts. Vehicles equipped with the system will also be able to serve as mobile hot-spots.
"When we look at the car, we see another smartphone," said Matt Carter, president of wholesale and emerging solutions for Sprint.
For Chrysler, Sprint provides a kind of one-stop shop to respond to other automakers' advancements in connectivity, applications, and smartphone integration, said Marios Zenios, head of Uconnect systems and services for Chrysler.
Both Chrysler and Sprint will control which third-party applications will be allowed to run on the Uconnect system and will work with other suppliers to improve Uconnect's voice-recognition abilities, with the overall goal of creating a better and safer experience for consumers, Zenios said.
"You've got to apply a lot of smarts to make technology simple," Zenios said.
Zenios said that while Chrysler is rolling out its latest Uconnect system on the Ram and Viper, it hasn't yet announced whether the new functionality will migrate further down its product lineup.
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