No smartphone? No problem if you opt for a new Ram 1500 or SRT Viper this fall equipped with a smart radio that turns the vehicle into a cell phone under Chrysler's partnership with Sprint.
The automaker and cell phone carrier have developed a new wireless service that enhances Uconnect, Chrysler's system for hands-free communication, telematics, navigation and entertainment connectivity.
As Chrysler took time to to offer wireless connectivity in the vehicle that is easy to learn and use, the company looked at telematics, computer, Internet and phone carrier companies in search of a partner, said Marios Zenios, head of Uconnect.
"Having a reliable network to deliver service is important," Zenios said today at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars here.
Matt Carter, Sprint president of wholesale and emerging solutions, said the two companies have a shared vision of extending wireless in the auto industry.
"When we look at the car we see another smart phone," Carter said.
Under the arrangement, Sprint provides a network that is open to all customers regardless of their phone or carrier.
Zenios said customers can use the smart radio -- supplied by Harman -- to link their smart phone to the car's hardware or simply use the radio as the wireless device to access Bing as an Internet search engine.
If customers subscribe to Uconnect and use the smart radio, they get such features as remote start, voice-command texting and the ability to turn the vehicle into a WiFi hot spot.
The enhanced Uconnect provides a one-step command for navigation: press a button on the steering wheel and state the desired address, as opposed to competitive systems such as Ford's Sync that requires a series of prompts and responses.
Ford has been dinged in quality surveys by consumers who have had difficulty using some features of the MyFord Touch system.
Pricing and packaging of Uconnect features is still being determined, Zenios said. Creating a wifi hot spot will be on a pay-for-use basis.
The biggest challenge is making the voice recognition software reliable.
Chrysler will eventually offer the enhanced Uconnect on more vehicles, Zenios said.
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