LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE

Why Chrysler's new onboard navigation system makes me chuckle

Automotive News | October 1, 2012 - 12:01 am EST

Larry P. Vellequette covers Chrysler Group for Automotive News.
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DETROIT -- The advances in onboard navigation systems have come at a breakneck pace in recent years.

But sometimes, it's what gets overlooked -- and what doesn't -- in the hurly-burly rush for the latest and greatest mapping software that gives me cause to chuckle.

While exploring Chrysler Group's latest version of its Uconnect infotainment system around metro Detroit this week in a 2013 Ram 1500 Laramie, I found a few such smile-inducing nuggets buried in the map.

The new Uconnect system displays a two-dimensional graphic representation of many larger buildings on its street map. The feature is a great navigational aid, especially for those who like to find their way via landmark.

But the good folks at Chrysler went a step further around metro Detroit, purposely pixelating any suggestion of a blue oval from, say, Ford's world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., or from the roof of Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions.

The digital obfuscations didn't stop there, however. The five towers of General Motors' headquarters in downtown Detroit are vivid and clear on the Ram's 8.4-inch screen -- except for the oddly blurry blue square atop the center stack, which in real life is the brightly lit GM box that now dominates Detroit's skyline.

Just to be sure that what I was seeing wasn't a fluke, I scrolled the onboard map 30 miles north up I-75 to Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Sure enough, the Pentastar atop Chrysler's high-rise was crisp and clear. What a coincidence.

You won't see the Ford Blue Oval in Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system -- even on Ford Field in downtown Detroit.

Of course, Ford's blue oval and GM's blue box logos carry their own copyrights. I can't speak to whether their representations on the digitized map of a Chrysler vehicle would infringe on those trademarks or be considered a "fair use" of those marks. It's of little concern, really, outside the highly competitive and sometimes petulant automotive industry.

Asked about the varying logos, Chrysler said the digital obfuscation was "not by design." The company said its navigation map suppliers update the map on an annual basis, but focus on updating “new points of interest versus buildings that have been open for many years.”

The way the blue oval and box weren't represented certainly made me smile, but not as much as the ancient nugget I found a few miles up the road from GM's headquarters.

There on the screen of this 2013 Ram was displayed the name of the massive assembly plant that makes the Jeep Grand Cherokee, or at least the name it went by five years, three owners and one bankruptcy ago: Daimler-Chrysler Jefferson Assembly.

When I asked Chrysler about the map’s Teutonic moniker for the home of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, I was told that "Chrysler Group is aware of this point of interest and is actively working with its supplier partner to correct this in a future map update."

Now that made me laugh.

Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system still shows DaimlerChrysler on its map for Detroit.

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