Car News

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Coming to FCA's Next Infotainment System

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has just announced the latest version of its Uconnect infotainment system. The Android-based system will add wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, get new over-the-air map updates, and offer even larger screens with more pixels and quicker operation.

Uconnect 5 starts with new, more powerful hardware that runs on an Android operating system. It gets more ram, more storage, and faster processing that FCA says makes it five times faster than the old version. It also means that it can operate up to four screens, so they could add one for the passenger or even screens for the back.

The new hardware lets designers install screens up to 12.3 inches in size, the largest FCA has put in a vehicle to date. Those screens will have up to 15 million pixels and display in Ultra HD. It allows for a new dual-Bluetooth connection that lets users connect two phones and decide which one gets priority for navigation, audio, and messages.

Wireless offerings of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay let users project their phone to the screen without the clutter of cords. Helping to reduce driver distraction, Uconnect 5 has added improved voice control. There are better and relocated microphones, but also improved natural speech recognition. FCA is using those features to add new vehicle controls, for example asking, "Hey Chrysler, change the temperature to 23 degrees" would adjust the climate control.

The new navigation system comes from TomTom and includes traffic and EV services, letting users find charging stations easily. FCA says the destination search has been simplified to make it more like your phone in operation. It can handle over-the-air map updates and send walking directions to the Uconnect on your phone so you can get from parking space to final destination.

In preparation for FCA's expected 30 models with electrified powertrains by 2022, the new system has dynamic range mapping to show drivers how far they can go on their charge. It will make charging suggestions (and gas stop suggestions) if you're trying to go farther than your tank or battery allow.

With Uconnect 5, FCA's brands can adjust the interface to suit the brand and model where the system is being used. Owners can customize it further, letting them lay out screens the way they want. It will store up to five user profiles, allowing for multiple users to customize the system, and each profile will store settings like temperature, seat position, and even mirror placement.

FCA has added an Amazon Alexa skill, meaning that customers with Alexa-enabled devices can do things like unlock and start their vehicle through the device. It can also perform Alexa virtual assistant tasks in the vehicle. New e-commerce services allow users to find gas stations and even order food from their vehicle, with the whole system able to handle software and firmware updates over the air.

The latest version of Uconnect is expected to arrive later this year. FCA didn't say which vehicle would get the system first, but they may have given us a hint. In a video describing some of the changes, FCA personnel are in front of a backdrop showing the Chrysler Pacifica minivan's dashboard. It's a vehicle expected to see a refresh later this year, so that may be the first time we see Uconnect 5 in operation.