Kia adds smartphone-based telematics to UVO infotainment system

  • 01-Mar-2013 04:28 EST

From the Home touch screen for UVO eServices, a user can select the eServices feature desired.

Kia's UVO (short for your voice) has taken its first major step into new territory—adding a telematics module that works through a Bluetooth-linked smartphone with a free special app. The telematics module unit (TMU) feature, called eServices, is available now on Kia's first round of 2014 models—Sorento crossover, Forte sedan and coupe, and Cadenza midsize sedan—with other 2014 cars to follow. It includes a new 8.0-in touch screen, replacing the 4.3-in unit previously used.

The TMU is on the 500 kb/s high-speed CAN (controller area network) bus and also communicates with the 125 kb/s medium-speed multimedia and interior CAN buses through a gateway in the control panel head unit. The data collected are also transmitted by Bluetooth to the app-enabled smartphone.

Apple's iPhone (except for the new iPhone 5) is the only approved type of smartphone at introduction. However, Henry Bzeih, Chief Technology Officer for Kia's Connected Car, said that the iPhone 5 and Google Android phones would be compatible by the second quarter of this year. Bluetooth is the only linking method at this time, Bzeih said, but a wired connection is in the planning stage.

Although UVO itself is a variant on Microsoft's infotainment operating system and module with which Ford was first to market (Sync), the Kia TMU and app were developed in-house. Kia's U.S. operations asked for a smartphone-based system, and its Connect Car group produced a set of product features and worked with the company's Korea-based R&D to establish feasibility, Bzeih explained. R&D developed the TMU and the software.

Feature content

The eServices feature is included in a vehicle technology package. The new services it provides are free (well, for 10 years/100,000 mi anyway). They include enhanced roadside assist, 911 Connect, vehicle diagnostics, and remote access of car data, maintenance notification, parked vehicle locator, and if the car has the Kia embedded navigation system, Google's Send to Car.

Enhanced roadside assist transmits vehicle trouble codes and uses GPS to send vehicle location when the motorist calls the Kia center for roadside service. The 911 Connect automatically calls 911 if an airbag deploys. Unless the driver cancels within 10 seconds, the system also uses GPS data to determine location and transmit vehicle location to the responder.

Because the TMU is wired into the vehicle data bus systems, it records powertrain, safety, and chassis trouble codes and automatically notifies the driver when a powertrain problem is detected and advises if immediate service is indicated. It can run a vehicle diagnostic check on request or automatically on a day-of-month schedule. The maintenance notification and vehicle health reports are based purely on TMU monitoring of odometer mileage, not a computer algorithm.

Finding parked car

The parked vehicle locator, called Parking Minder, uses GPS to store the location on a smartphone before the motorist leaves. In addition, it incorporates a photo session, in which the driver can take and store up to three photos of the surrounding location, even set a phone alarm for any parking time limit. On the way back, the phone displays a map with the location of the vehicle and where the motorist is, so he/she can see where to walk to close the gap. The map is produced by the Kia app; a vehicle navigation system is not required.

Unlike Sync, which has Nuance's Naturally Speaking, UVO is equipped with Microsoft's voice-recognition system for such functions as making a phone call, selecting music from the "jukebox" playlist and a plugged-in flash drive, and now using the OE-equipped navigation system. Like the earlier UVO, the voice-recognition function can ask UVO to perform an "out of mode" action, such as to call a phone number while the "jukebox" is playing. Microsoft voice recognition can learn English, French, and Spanish and be simultaneously proficient in two of the three languages.

Google Maps and Google Places, which can be accessed online from home or office, will send a requested destination to and through the smartphone to the vehicle. Called My POI (points of interest) or Send to Car, it requires the embedded navigation system to provide driving directions.

The navigation maps are updated via an SD card. The TMU can be reprogrammed with software downloaded into a flash drive and uploaded through a USB port on the head unit. Kia recognizes the possible appeal of a navigation system that uses a smartphone (as in Ford's Sync and Chevrolet's MyLink system in the Spark and Sonic) vs. the embedded type and is considering development of an equivalent.

In the active development stage is incorporation of Siri, Apple's voice-recognition system that can make calls, send texts, and through the smartphone Internet browser can answer questions. This feature is being installed on Chevy's Spark and Sonic, which also have smartphone-based systems. A target date for Kia availability has not been set.

Because of the TMU installation and its connection to the data bus system, it would be impractical to upgrade pre-2014 UVO systems to eServices.

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