Connected Car: Are Uconnected? EnTuned? SYNC-ed Up?
Although Ford has traditionally led the pack when it comes to OEM infotainment systems, other manufacturers are quickly catching up. Ford originally partnered with Microsoft, and now the company has recently partnered with Blackberry’s QNX division for SYNC 3 software. It is a winner! It was one of the reasons my better half chose a Ford. Once she saw the ability to have her text messages read to her before even leaving the dealership lot, she was sold. But we are an aftermarket electronics family, and things can always use improvement. That doesn’t mean that you or your savvy customers aren’t looking for the best product from the factory as a great starting point for enhancement and personalization. Sometimes all of the features we crave are not offered in the $8,000 ‘Tech Package.’
When SYNC 3 was released in the Ford Escape and Mustang models, it was big hit. However, if you take a close look, there are some similarities with the FCA Uconnect unit – especially the lower tray that allows you to choose from Music, Navigation, Phone, Climate or other apps. SYNC 3 is now lightning fast, and Consumer Reports can no longer criticize the unit for lackluster performance. But FCA is not at rest, and is overhauling the Uconnect system. The latest fourth-generation beta version was displayed at CES and it looks like a real winner.
One of the biggest announcements from FCA is the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto out of the gate. Just like the General Motors infotainment systems, the monster Uconnect 12.1-inch built-in touchscreen even enables integration of law enforcement computer systems. Improvements include capacitive touchscreens, performance improvements of faster startup time, enhanced processing power, heightened touchscreen responsiveness, vivid touchscreens, and improved resolution and brightness. In future versions, FCA is forecasting implementing Predictive Technology. This will monitor a driver’s daily habits, including traffic patterns, personal calendar events and personal preferences, so the vehicle’s Uconnect system can deliver personalized information to the driver at the exact moment needed. They envision an Intelligent Concierge – a concept programmed to learn driver preferences and provide personalized suggestions in anticipation of driver needs. In other words, the FCA units want to predict what the customer will want, to give the absolute best experience to the driver. Kind of like what we have to do in the aftermarket! Moving forward, we predict more aftermarket high-end units will connect with the cloud to deliver what the customer wants, whether that be directions to their favorite type of restaurant or a new song just released by their favorite artist.