No North American Auto Show in January? No problem, says Fiat Chrysler – “let’s bring some media to our neck of the woods to talk about the Chicago show.”
I can’t yet talk about the other stuff I learned in Auburn Hills last week – while I’m not a huge fan of encouraging OEM marketing plans by agreeing to embargoes, those same embargoes are meant to make sure we play fair with other media, and I’m on board with that – but there was one piece of news that’s no longer under embargo.
UConnect is getting an upgrade. A massive one.
Using an Android operating system, the infotainment system is poised to undergo a great deal of change.
Fiat Chrysler claims UConnect 5 (UConnect is now on its fifth generation after starting in 2003) will offer processing speeds up to five times faster than the current-gen system.
Users will be able to set up five different profiles, plus a valet mode. This means each user can set up their own preferences, and different drivers will be able to switch back and forth. Handy dandy if your partner occasionally drives your car and you’d rather not hear their “Old Town Road” Spotify playlist.
Digital-assistant Alexa gets integrated into the system, along with so-called “Car to Home” features. Meanwhile, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are going wireless, and thanks to UConnect 5, the two systems will now be available in all FCA products.
A Maps Over the Air feature should help available navigation systems run better, and drivers will be able to personalize Pandora stations. (It should be noted that Pandora currently brings your personal stations into Apple CarPlay).
Two smartphones can connect to Bluetooth at the same time, and users can prioritize what phone manages what function. The graphics will include “cards” that simplify the display. The system is set up for over-the-air software updates.
About those user profiles: You can do a lot with them. Predictably, you can set your music preferences, but that’s not all – you can also set your preferred temperature, seating position, and mirror position, for example. You can then switch it up for the other drivers in your household.
Just like with cell-phone cameras, the screen can be arranged in portrait or landscape modes. A square mode is also on offer. Users can personalize the home screen with their most-used apps and features, allowing one-click access. That’s similar to how people set up their mobile phone screens.
Hardware includes a 50K MIPS chip, 6 GB of RAM, and up to 64 GB of flash memory.
The over-the-air maps feature intrigues. Not only does it automatically update maps in the background, but it will be used to help electric-car owners (FCA promises more EVs in its lineup soon) find nearby charging stations and shows drivers using the map how much further they can go on the current charge. The former is no big deal – most nav systems in current EVs locate charging points – but the latter is neat since it removes the math and simply shows you the point of no return.
Sirius XM 360L satellite radio will be available, as well, and vehicles will continue to be a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot. Chrysler says the system should be ready for 5G.
We didn’t get a true demo of the system; all we saw were pics on a PowerPoint deck. Meaning: I can’t judge anything at this early date other than to say the system looks good in pictures. If it’s easy to use and not buggy at all, or at least not any buggier than one would expect from a brand-new system, it should help FCA retain the consensus crown for best infotainment system.
Fiat Chrysler was mum on which vehicle might see UConnect 5 first, but expect to see it before the end of 2020.
[Images: Fiat Chrysler]