In today’s hyper-connected world, everyone craves access. Many people use a smartphone to tap into an ever-growing bundle of information – news, phone calls, texts, social media and streaming entertainment, to name a few.
Americans also spend an average of 100 minutes in their cars each day. That makes the dashboard a central info hub. Harnessing the power of smartphones and helping manage the flood of information in a growing number of FCA US cars is the job of the Uconnect system.
Vehicles fitted with the latest generation of the 8.4-inch Uconnect systems, such as the Chrysler 200, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Ram light- and heavy-duty pickups, come with an included trial of Uconnect Access.
So while the system hardware and the connected services share a brand name – Uconnect — the Uconnect Access services supercharges what you can do by giving you access to real-time information from the cloud and your car.
The heart of Uconnect Access is a wireless platform that also talks with the in-car network.
That’s a powerful combination. With it, you can use Uconnect Access to summon emergency help or 911 assistance simply by pressing a button on the rear view mirror. Get recommendations for nearby restaurants, shopping, hotels or find a gas station – wherever you are – via the built-in connection to Yelp. The embedded cellular modem also enables the car to be used as a mobile hot spot for wireless Internet access – ideal for working on the move, or enabling passengers to surf the web while on a road trip.
The power of Uconnect Access extends to an app on your smartphone. This opens up services such as extended-range remote start and lock/unlock (perfect on a cold or hot day when you are at one end of the shopping center and your car is parked at the other end) and the ability to find your car a crowded parking lot (available second half of 2015).
But that’s not all the app can do for you is even more. Uconnect Access Via Mobile works within the Uconnect Access app to keep you entertained. Uconnect Access Via Mobile enables drivers to stream popular internet radio apps like Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker and Aha and control them on the vivid 8.4-inch display. Just know that the data used by those streaming apps comes from your smartphone’s data plan, not the data plan for the Uconnect Access embedded modem in the vehicle.
All of that is just a start. “The screen in the car opens up a world of possibilities,” says Joni Christensen, head of marketing for Uconnect.
Over the past several years, Uconnect has expanded from its beginnings as voice command and Bluetooth connectivity. But those technologies remain the foundation of helping drivers put their devices away so they remain focused on driving.
That favorite playlist on your phone? Wirelessly stream it and crank it up through the vehicle speakers with Uconnect. For those who need to be in regular contact, some Uconnect systems can even “read aloud” text messages and enable you to choose from a list of preprogrammed responses.
Not sure which Uconnect system is in your car? Here is a handy guide.
Beyond the technology, ease of access has always been a top priority for the Uconnect team. Offering a variety of ways to control the systems lets drivers of all ages and skills make the best use of Uconnect. “People adapt to technology at different ways and at different speeds,” Christensen says. “It takes time to change behaviors. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
This helps explain why many FCA US vehicles are equipped with multiple controls for similar functions. For example, changing the audio volume is possible with a knob on the console, symbols on the touchscreen or toggle switches on the back side of the steering wheel.
Reviewers have praised Uconnect systems for their ease of use. A growing number of customers cite their experience with Uconnect as motivation to make sure the technology is in their next new vehicle, Christensen says.
“I think we have been one of FCA’s best-kept secrets,” Christensen says.
Given FCA’s continued growth of sales, the secret is spreading.