Fiat Chrysler to show off Android auto system at CES – USA TODAY
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SAN FRANCISCO — Fiat Chrysler and Google already have a partnership to further the development of self-driving automobiles. And now the auto and tech giants are joining forces to upgrade the generally mediocre state of in-car infotainment systems.
FCA and Google announced Monday that the companies would unveil the latest iteration of FCA’s Android-based infotainment system dubbed Uconnect at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan 5-8.
Currently, many newer cars feature in-dash head units that are compatible with Android Auto and Apple’s Car Play, systems that essentially provide limited access to key apps — such as contacts and maps — living on the driver or passenger’s smartphone.
But FCA’s new Uconnect concept, which is powered by the latest version of Android, Nougat 7.0, aims to broaden the smartphone’s functionality within the automobile, offering access to a broader and more customizable suite of apps.
FCA and Google are eight months into a deep collaboration on self-driving car technology, with the automaker providing Google’s recently renamed autonomous car company — Waymo — with 100 Chrysler Pacificas packed with the Mountain View, Calif-based company’s self-driving sensors.
“This collaboration with Google has been an extremely beneficial opportunity for both companies to explore how in-vehicle infotainment and connectivity technology continues to evolve, and what it takes to meet consumers’ increasing desire for innovation of information with minimal distraction,” Chris Barman, FCA’s head of electrical engineering, said in a statement.
“With Android, we are able to maintain our unique and intuitive Uconnect user interface, all while integrating our easy-to-use systems with Android’s features and ecosystem of applications,” he said.
Google director of Android engineering Patrick Brady added that the companies are “committed to building Android as a turn-key automotive platform that integrates deeply with the vehicle in a safe and seamless way.”
Consumers increasingly expect to port their smartphone lives over to their vehicles with minimal fuss. Tesla has made a name for itself by offering one of the largest, vertically positioned screens available in a car today. All of the car’s functions are controlled from the 17-inch screen. FCA’s new Uconnect will be showcased on an 8.4-inch screen inside a Chrysler 300.
The other reason for automakers to further refine hands-free smartphone-based infotainment systems is legal.
Although holding your phone and talking while driving is already banned in 14 states and and text messaging is banned in 46 states, the rules just got more strict for California drivers.
Beginning Jan. 1, residents of the Golden State are prohibited from holding and operating their phones for any purpose unless it is mounted to a dashboard, and even then only one-touch swipes are permitted.
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