AOL Autos set out in January 2012 to name our first ever Technology of the Year Winner. And we are happy to announce that Chrysler's upgraded Uconnect system introduced in the 2013 Ram 1500 and Dodge Viper, and soon to be rolled into the rest of the Chrysler-Ram-Dodge-Jeep lineup, won over both our judging panel, as well as out consumer voters.
The improved Uconnect vied for Technology of the Year against other finalists including Audi Connect with Google Maps, the MyFord Mobile app, Honda LaneWatch, Nissan's Easy Fill Tire Alert System and Cadillac Cue. Not only did the panel of Technology of the Year judges rate Uconnect the top entry, but AOL Autos readers who voted also scored Uconnect number-one.
"I think Uconnect scored so high with our judges because the system does not go too far in terms of replacing buttons and knobs with too many new controllers," says AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley. "Chrysler has taken the approach that it is going to walk with consumers into the new era of telematics and smart-phone connectivity rather than try and push the consumer to fast too hard." Adds Kiley, "Uconnect works really well and delivers on its promises."
The upgraded Uconnect system gives drivers Internet access, in-dash apps, a smartphone app, emergency assistance and cloud-based voice recognition systems. But Chrysler layered in a few new options as well.
Using Sprint's Velocity for Vehicle Manufacturers system, 2013 Ram truck owners can use their vehicles as a mobile hot-spot for other people at their work site. Even better: The system can link in with other WiFi spots in the area, so if the truck is parked outside a Starbucks, Panera Bread or public library, the driver can use the Internet in the car for free. If the driver doesn't have access to free Internet, customers can opt for a monthly data plan or an on-demand pay-per-use option.
Chrysler's upgraded system comes in basic and upgraded versions: The base version, UconnectR3, features an 8.4-inch color touchscreen and the flexibility to purchase navigation after you buy the vehicle. It includes a built-in cellular modem and Wi-Fi capability, access to 911 and roadside assistance via the press of a button on the rearview mirror (similar to General Motor's OnStar system), SiriusXM satellite radio, voice recognition, hands-free text messaging and access to digital music through an SD card slot and USB ports.
The higher-end version, UconnectR4 includes everything from the lower priced version, plus HD Radio, SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic, and a "full feature" navigation system with 3-D city maps and digital terrain modeling that shows you what your route looks like. A smartphone app available for both systems also allows remotely locking and unlocking the doors and starting the vehicle.
Uconnect has established itself a clear leader in automobile-to-smartphone connectivity and a solution to distracted driving.