Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment software is a perennial auto journalist fave for its appreciated combo of user-friendliness and fun features. The latest iteration, Uconnect 5, was announced today with some specs and I have mixed feelings. Mostly: Faster processing good, Alexa in cars why?
From the screenshots that FCA’s rep sent over along with a press release, it looks like Uconnect 5 is going to remain aesthetically easy to digest. Here’s what you’ll be working with next time you play with the screen in one of the new Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia (they’re still out there), Maserati or Ram vehicles that has infotainment.
Full disclosure: It’s not specified when each brand is going to be done transitioning to the new system. But here you go:
You can dig into FCA’s posting if you want to see everything the company’s released on Uconnect 5 so far, but I’ll give you the highlights I found most interesting:
Uconnect 5 will let you pair two phones to the car at once, which could be convenient for a couple or friends traveling together.
Multiple user profiles will store all your settings related to the screen and the car itself, so you’ll be able to sign-in like you do on a computer or web browser and get everything from the screen layout to the mirror positioning populated to your preferences automatically.
You’ll be able to give your Uconnect 5 car voice commands by saying “Hey Chrysler,” (or Jeep or whatever) and then just speaking. BMW and Mercedes have this functionality; pretty garbage if you ask me. I have been trying to appreciate voice controls since discovering the button on my 2005 Acura, but have yet to use one that’s satisfying to use or actually responds to “natural speaking” as so many of them advertise.
Both the system’s firmware and TomTom navigation will be updatable over the air, theoretically helping Uconnect 5 cars stave off obsolescence a little longer. As far as technical functionality FCA claims the new system will react to inputs “five times faster” than its current one.
One passage of the press release I particularly liked:
“The UX design team worked hand in hand with the interior and color and material design teams to seamlessly integrate the new technology into each vehicle and make appropriate use of the three available screen styles – portrait, square and landscape. To integrate screens inside the vehicle, UX designers created detailed backdrops to match interior colors and themes.”
That’s cool. I think all automakers would say they do this–coordinate their software UX with interior design–but it’s nice to see the importance of that level of detail being recognized.
Here’s another passage from the press release. This one I was not keen on:
With the Uconnect skill for Alexa, customers with Alexa-enabled devices at home can easily ask Alexa to start the car, lock/unlock doors and more. Uconnect 5 brings Amazon Alexa directly into the vehicle itself, giving occupants the freedom to interact with Alexa just as they do at home or on a personal device. With Alexa built-in, occupants can ask Alexa to play music, podcasts and audiobooks; add items to their to-do list; check news, weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information; and access tens of thousands of Alexa skills. Responses and streaming audio are delivered through the vehicle’s audio system, allowing anyone in the entire vehicle to easily interact with Alexa.
At the risk of outing myself as a Luddite–I’m not really, I just have Ludditical tendencies–let the record show I’m coming down firmly on the side of “Alexa in cars can go to hell.”
The stuff-selling monolith Amazon already knows way too much about me based on the copious amount of crap I am compelled to search for and consume on its site all the time. I really, really do not need or want to give that outfit another microscope into my life.
Or, honestly, do I want to be bothered with shit like “my to-do list” and “news checking” from my car. All that shit is already on my phone, which is already in my pocket. Which... is probably giving Amazon my location at all times anyway. We’re all just mulch to a hungry robotic corporate ecosystem, aren’t we?