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UConnect 5: a major leap forward

by David Zatz on

FCA’s previously announced move to Android (from the proprietary QNX system sold by Blackberry) is now ready, with long-awaited features including up to five user profiles, valet mode, and over-the-air updates. The system promises to be up to five times faster, as well.

UConnect 5 supports 7-inch, 8.4-inch, and 10.1 inch screens; UConnect 5 Plus (including navigation) supports 8.4 and 10.1 inch screens, 10.25 and 12.3 inch wide screens, and 12-inch screens (in the back, with Plus, 8.4-inch and 10.1-inch rear seat screens).

Uconnect 5 devices will be supplied by Mitsubishi, and have a 20K MIPS CPU, two megapixels, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of memory; it can control a single screen. Uconnect 5 Plus, made by Samsung’s Harman brand, has a 50K MIPS  CPU, 15 megapixels, 64GB of RAM, and premium audio with active noise cancellation. This system is five times faster than the top current UConnect 4 setup.

The system will preserve the customizable home screen of UConnect 4, but replaces Garmin maps with TomTom’s—swapping out expensive, often-already-outdated map updates with over-the-air maps. It also adds the ability to have four screens in a vehicle, so driver, passenger, and rear seats can all be supported.

The move adds the Alexa personal assistant with all the privacy features that entails. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both included, in wireless mode. Other features, include SiriusXM 360L and personalized Pandora stations; simultaneous, dual-phone connectivity (a truly welcome feature for couples).  The system provides capabilities for owners in over 150 countries.

UConnect 5 was designed to reach across all FCA brands, and to be ready for more advanced technologies; it also has more personalization features. In the past, some higher-end Chrysler and FCA cars had two personalization settings; the new system has five, with preferences for both music and vehicle operation, including temperature, seating position, and mirror placement. Switching between user profiles is simple and can be handled by a single touch.

uconnect 5 profiles

The user interface team worked with interior designers to make the most of the three screen styles (portrait, square and landscape), matching colors and themes with detailed backdrops specific to brands and trim levels (as they did in UConnect 4). As screens were integrated into vehicles, the group looked at screen edges, location, angle, and depth for proper viewing.

A new card-based format allows display screens to be personalized, simplified, and grouped by individual needs and interests. Once inside a card, information and icons can be accessed in no more than two button pushes.

Part of the upgrade took place in hardware; processing power and memory were both increased, and the Powernet electronics architecture was replaced by Atlantis for core in-vehicle electronics communication across new FCA vehicles.

Allowing up to four displays (5 Plus only), in landscape or portrait mode, provides more flexibility; with up to 15 million pixels in Ultra HD, screens can work separately or in harmony, depending on user preference and purpose. The system matches UConnect 4’s largest screen size, seen only in police cars and the Ram 1500: 12.3 inches.

uconnect5

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are currently available on more than 80% of FCA’s North American applications, but now they will be available on all Uconnect 5-equipped vehicles with wireless connectivity.

A new voice recognition engine has natural-voice capability, e.g. “Find an available EV charging station near me.” The system is “woken up” with a button or with the brand name (e.g. “Hey Chrysler, change the temperature to 70 degrees.”) There’s no need to press a button, unless using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. New microphone technology and placement couple with more sophisticated software to deal with background noise.

TomTom has a “one-box” search, which can be faster than past systems (enabled by the more powerful processor); it can search without internet connectivity, by using offline map data. Last Mile Navigation provides walking directions from your vehicle to your final destination, via a smartphone app.

The built-in navigation links vehicle systems to the route, accomplishing what phone navigation systems cannot. By 2022, FCA will offer more than 30 nameplates with electrified powertrains, half of which are PHEV or BEV, creating a need for charging stations to be integrated with the maps. Dynamic Range Mapping helps the driver to visualize the vehicle’s range by displaying on the map how far they can drive with current fuel/charge levels. If the range is insufficient to make it to the selected destination, Uconnect 5 will make suggestions for recharging /refueling with a cost comparison. A warning appears on-screen, prompting the user to choose a charging point/fuel station which is available and within range.

As with past systems, guidance provides specific lane information and detailed turns to help navigate through complicated intersections and on/off ramps; Uconnect projects this information to the vehicle’s cluster screen, reducing the need for head motion or taking one’s eyes too far from the windshield. New to the system are speed camera warnings; it also relays traffic and hazard warnings.

Uconnect 5 uses a cloud-based platform for features such as Uconnect Market (which lets people order food, find the nearest gas station, pay for gas, find and pay for parking, and make dinner reservations).

Auto dimming and warning signals were tested in real-world driving conditions; there are redundant audio and visual warnings for automatic emergency braking. Auto-dimming and night mode on the screen helps reduce eye strain when driving in the dark or in tunnels, with independent settings for each screen. Redundant HVAC, comfort, and audio were improved for ease of use and response time.

Uconnect 5 can support future autonomous driving with the addition of a Telematics Box Module (TBM). The existing 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot can keep up to eight devices connected.

Some of these features are only for UConnect 5 Plus: digital radio, natural language voice recognition, rear-seat entertainment, and navigation. In addition, the Plus adds Bluetooth HD streaming (rather than plain Bluetooth streaming).

The system will first appear on new cars, which may be shown or previewed at the Chicago Auto Show.

51% of new-car buyers consider in-vehicle technology as part of their purchase and 64% reported their technology experience made them more likely to buy from the same brand (Source: 2018 Harris Poll Auto TechCast). Uconnect has led the industry in content and exclusive features since its inception in 2003; the fifth generation will, hopefully, continue Chrysler/FCA’s leadership.

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