Kia UVO Channels Jim Morrison: “Keep Your Eye On the Road and Your Hands Upon the Wheel”

Sections: Car Safety, CES, CES 2014, Infotainment, Navigation, Telematics

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Kia UVO Sorento 2014

Kia’s current UVO infotainment system is shown in the 2014 Sorento. At 2014 CES, the automaker unveiled a slew of new features coming to UVO. (Photo courtesy Kia)

The Kia UVO infotainment system will soon be updated in ways Kia says will help drivers avoid taking their eyes off the road ahead or removing their hands from the wheel while controlling UVO’s features.

The press release from Kia said the automaker used 2014 International CES to introduce a new concept to UVO called User-centered Driver Concept (UCD) that promises to enhance UVO’s functionality while allowing the driver to remain undistracted, even though said driver uses said features. So basically the goal of every safety- (or should we say lawsuit?)-concerned automaker, right? The big news is the User-centered Driver Concept brings a big head-up display (HUD) to future Kias. If 18 inches ain’t big enough for you, get your eyes checked. Or your head. Whichever. All I know is the HUD in most cars I tested last year was tiny, maybe six inches. Kia plans on bringing three times that amount of real estate. That’s cool.

The HUD “offers drivers an augmented-reality snapshot of vital information such as speed, navigation and traffic information,” the release said. There’s also a 12.3-inch TFT-LCD instrument cluster that gives the driver a 3D view of vehicle information, utilizing eye-tracking technology to maintain a clear view from various angles. If 2013 was the year of the 3D TV, perhaps 2014 is the year of 3D gauge cluster?

The UCD system also includes a hand-gesture controller that uses infrared light and camera sensors to allow the driver to quickly access radio or navigation options without removing her eyes from the road. It really is a case of “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.

In other Kia news, the Korean automaker also used CES as an opportunity to announce another concept it called the In-vehicle Infotainment Concept (IVI) that encompasses Kia’s latest developments in in-car infotainment content delivery. We quote the release:

The seamless delivery of content is achieved by a multi-display layout, prominently featuring a 20-inch multi-touch center console display.  Information is then synchronized through a portable plug-in tablet or the driver’s own smartphone, providing easy access to a suite of services such as concierge, social networking and parking assist.

Innovative advancements in music-delivery technology are found in the IVI Concept’s “Smart Radio” functions, including the ability to personalize playlists according to the user’s mood or based on five templates for different driving environments, such as summer driving on a coastal road, all delivered via Kia’s proprietary music service.

The development of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication is demonstrated in the IVI Concept as a series of real-world scenarios.  Visual and auditory alerts of drive-route hazards and real-time warnings1 for potential danger such as a frontal collision and lane departure2, as well as current intersection conditions, provide peace of mind for driver and passengers.

Dynamic HD wireless (WiHD) technology enables and optimizes connectivity of these various components, including front-seat display and two independently functioning rear-seat entertainment units.  This “mirroring” technology allows passengers to enjoy their own music and video experiences while vital information, such as pre-programmed smartphone navigation notifications, is simultaneously provided to the driver.

Kia also showed a version of UVO optimized for electric vehicles at CES, a move the automaker made in anticipation of its release of the Kia Soul EV later this year. Part of the functionality of UVO for EVs will be a smartphone app, according to the press release. The UVO system for EVs provides telematics info including and the ability to search for nearby charging stations, battery charging level, and distance to empty, while the smartphone app allows drivers to preset charging time and charging level ratios, as well as precondition the vehicle cabin with remote control of HVAC presets.

Finally, Kia said it is preparing to enhance voice control in its UVO system — that whole Jim Morrison thing again — by use of its UVO VR (voice recognition) technology. The automaker described it as a “Hybrid VR  platform” that enables drivers to perform functions such as dictating messages, selecting their favorite music, or asking for directions, all while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Perhaps the driver’s favorite band is The Doors. Just sayin’.

The release added that as soon as 2015, some Kia models will get a new multimedia suite capable downloading additional apps such as iHeart Radio. Meanwhile, “The addition of the Sound Hound music recognition app will take in-car music engagement to the next level, and the integration of Yelp3 will help Kia owners locate the hottest restaurants and best clubs,” the release said. Reportedly, Kia’s in-house UVO-based app store will allow owners to customize their infotainment and telematics experience — but perhaps to a lesser extent than the Android-based infotainment systems coming from sister carbuilder Hyundai in the not-too-distant.

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