Ford, Kia, Acura upgrade infotainment in LA
New AcuraLink system, improvements to Kia Uvo and upgrades to MyFord Touch add to recent introductions from GM.
Technology took center stage for several car brands at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Besides the first integration of Apple’s Siri Eyes Free “virtual assistant” voice-activation feature in a 2013 Chevy Spark and the next-generation MyLink system in the upcoming 2014 Impala, several automakers used LA to debut new in-cabin technology.
After launching HondaLink on the 2013 Accord three months ago, Honda introduced its second-generation AcuraLink system on its new flagship sedan, the 2014 Acura RLX. Kia will enhance its Uvo system with what it calls EServices starting with the 2014 Sorento, while Ford hopes to refine its problem-plagued MyFord Touch system with a new software upgrade and reassure current owners with an extended warranty.
The HondaLink system uses an application called Aha Radio to bring connected features such as Internet radio, podcasts, audiobooks and social media and search apps to the car. AcuraLink complements this by using an embedded cellular modem to add convenience services that don’t require tethering a smartphone, and allows the car to remotely communicate with a smartphone app when the owner is away.
In addition to the typical telematics features such as automatic crash notification, emergency assistance, stolen-vehicle tracking and remote diagnostics, AcuraLink layers on a voice-activated local search and an SMS text and email function while inside the car. Through a smartphone app, it adds remote features such as a car locator, remote door lock/unlock, vehicle alarm notification and continued on-foot navigation while outside the car.
Some features are part of a Standard Package that comes with the car, while others are part of an extra-cost Connect Package. AcuraLink will also offer a separate Concierge Package that comes with 24/7 live operator assistance to help a driver with a destination and send it directly to the car’s navigation system and to make restaurant and hotel reservations or send updates on weather, stocks and more.
Kia Uvo Eservices
Kia’s Uvo system, which launched a few years ago, is similar to an early version of Ford Sync in that it offers only basic voice-controlled mobile-phone and media-player connectivity. Like later versions of Sync, Uvo will now offer features through EServices that largely rely on a driver's mobile-phone connection to bring more content and services into the car.
EServices will include 911 Connect to automatically dial 911 on a Bluetooth-connected mobile phone when an airbag deploys. It will read the vehicle's location out loud to the 911 operator and allow the operator to speak with the vehicle occupants. The EServices Vehicle Diagnostics feature spots problems and allows the owner to schedule an appointment online after receiving a notice. The owner can also use a Scheduled Diagnostics feature on a smartphone to set up a monthly car health checkup; any issues found are automatically forwarded to a special owner's website.
Other EServices features include a My POI feature that can send destinations from a smartphone to the navigation system when connected via Bluetooth. An eServices Guide explains the system’s features to the owner through the car's touch-screen or via voice command.
For those who frequently forget where they’ve parked their Kia, a Uvo eServices smartphone app allows the owner to take pictures of the surrounding area for reference, write a reminder note, email the location and set an alarm if the car’s parked at a meter. It will even guide the owner back by displaying the owner and vehicle locations on a map. Or the owner can look through the phone's integrated camera and an icon on the phone's screen will point to the vehicle's location.
Ford is upgrading MyFord Touch yet again. Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said that the company has improved the voice-recognition capability and navigation in what he called "version 3.5" of the software, according to Automotive News.
Fields said that Ford will begin to offer the first of these updates by Dec. 10, and that owners of vehicles with MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch with navigation systems will be able to upgrade the nav software early next year. Owners can request USB drives from Ford with the updated software and download the software on their own through a car’s USB port, or have their local dealer do it.
In March, Ford sent a software upgrade to 377,000 customers with the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems. The upgrade included faster touch-screen responses, simpler graphics, enhanced voice recognition and better mobile-phone controls. This was partly in response to customer complaints and partly due to the system’s repeated drubbing by Consumer Reports and Ford's drastic fall to 27th place in the 2011 J.D. Power & Associates’ Initial Quality Study from fifth in 2010, largely because of complaints with MyFord Touch.
Ford is also extending the warranty on the MyFord Touch system from three years/36,000 miles to five years with unlimited miles, while MyLincoln Touch will now be covered for six years with unlimited miles, up from the previous four years/50,000 miles.
The moves prove Ford is "committed to making sure that we are continuing to listen to customers and continuing to act more and more real-time like software companies do," Fields said during a roundtable with reporters during the Los Angeles Auto Show.
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