CES 2013: Chrysler Adds Internet Radio and POI Search to Uconnect

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Is the music coming through your Uconnect infotainment system seeming a bit…stale lately? Are you having trouble finding that hole-in-the-wall coffee shop everyone's talking about? Listen up: Chrysler promises a slew of new apps including a few internet radio streaming services and one search engine.

Chrysler's Uconnect system is one of the better-regarded infotainment systems on the market thanks to its large touchscreen and lightning-quick responses. But its main Achilles heel is its lack of flashier, internet-connected features: unlike HondaLink, Toyota Entune, and Subaru's Aha-based infotainment system, Uconnect can't use a Bluetooth/USB-connected phone to stream music from the Internet. That is, until now.

Chrysler is calling the system "Uconnect Access Via Mobile," which is a long way to say that it's adding app connectivity to its smartphone connectivity. Drivers can now plug-in or pair their Bluetooth phones (varies by operating system) and use one of four services: Aha, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and Slacker. Aha by Harman bridges the gap between GPS, social network, and radio service by reading traffic reports, nearby points of interest, social network feeds (Twitter and Facebook), and weather reports, but also includes internet radio feeds. iHeartRadio curates thousands of commercial radio stations but also allows users to create custom radio stations based on their likes and dislikes. Pandora needs little introduction--it's the preeminent Internet radio service backed by scores of musical knowledge. Slacker, meanwhile, brings together Internet radio stations and thousands of podcasts and radio clips.

While it's true that users have always been able to use these services by loading them on their phones and streaming the audio through an AUX cable or Bluetooth, Uconnect Access Via Mobile's biggest upgrade is that it allows drivers to use the huge Uconnect screen and steering wheel controls to interact with the services. Pandora users can thumbs-up/thumbs-down tracks using the screens, while other services work with Chrysler's steering-wheel-mounted track controls.

It's unclear at this point where or when Uconnect users will be able to finally use these features--Chrysler isn't talking yet, but promises more details "closer to launch." Still, it's likely if you have a Chrysler product with the largest Uconnect screen, you'll be able to upgrade your on-board system and use the apps.

Elsewhere around the Chrysler booth at Las Vegas' Consumer Electronics Show, the company is showing off another handful of Uconnect features. They include Uconnect Access, which is included on some models of 2013 Ram 1500 and 2013 SRT Viper, and provides one-touch 911 dialing and remote door locking/unlocking via a web portal or smartphone application. Once you do dial 911, Chrysler has another Uconnect suite in mind: it's currently working with the Los Angeles Police Department to improve the user interface/controls on its Charger Pursuit police vehicle.

Also on the stand is Uconnect's updated navigation program, which stands out from industry competitors in that it's available for purchase well after a customer buys the car. Chrysler says it's packaging many new cars (including the 2013 Ram 1500, 2014 Fiat 500L, and 2013 SRT Viper) with the necessary GPS hardware but leaving the software as a dealer-installed option; it means drivers will be able to add navigation at transaction time, weeks or months later, or leave the GPS hardware dormant and save cash.

Speaking of navigation, buried deep in Chrysler's release about Uconnect is a pleasant January surprise: according to the Uconnect Mobile via Mobile graphic from the Chrysler Group, Uconnect is set to add Bing internet search capability. As we've reported before, adding search engine capability to in-dash navigation systems is a game-changer: it makes finding obscure stores or restaurants easier, and is more easily updatable (when those businesses change location, open, or close) than hard- or flash-drive-based systems. Chrysler hasn't confirmed this yet--it's indicated only by a logo--but we've reached out to see if (Chrysler's own) rumors are true.

Source: Chrysler

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