In-car networking comes in different ways, from simple entertainment systems that connect to your device, to completely wired networks that function separately. Although the former is typically a quicker and more economical way to do it the latter opens up many opportunities for stuff that you can do in your car, whether you’re in it or away from it. Modern technologies will transform your car into a machine on wheels that is totally autonomous.
Today, with these wired networks, many new cars in India come with them. With its UVO connected car system, Kia recently introduced the Sonet, introducing properly connected car technology to open pricing segments. So what exactly does a connected car do, and to have this technology equipped in your car is it really worth the substantial price bump? I use the Kia Sonet and UVO connected car system to explore the features of connected cars and find out.
What is a connected car?
Let’s first talk about what a connected car is before we move ahead. Depending on how the vehicle links to Internet-based networks, there are distinct ways to describe this. A successful in-car infotainment system could do this at the most simplistic level, by using a networking app that connects to the smartphone or using common protocols such as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay that mimic the interface of the smartphone and much of its features on the infotainment device of the vehicle.
This is the easiest way to get your vehicle online if you’re on a budget, even if the car you want doesn’t have a choice for a fully wired solution. This helps you to see traffic data charts, check your alerts, take calls using the audio system of your vehicle, and even send voice commands using Google Assistant or Siri.
A full-fledged wired device, on the other hand, is capable of much more and does not even need to connect your mobile to you. Instead, with all its features, it would have its own SIM card and data link. And when you are not in it this helps you to communicate with the vehicle, and also allows you to access hard-wired features via the system. Mapping with dynamic info, in-car connections to the concierge and towing facilities, remote controls for car functions, and more may be used.
Kia UVO: The basics
UVO is a connected car app suite integrated into the in-car infotainment system that is available as an option on all Kia models currently available in India, including the recently released Sonet. You may need to register and connect your vehicle to the app, but with the purchase of vehicles fitted with the hardware, Kia is providing three years of UVO services for free. There’s no news about how much it would cost during the free use period, but in the US, for reference, the service is priced at $99 (approximately Rs. 7,300) a year.
The in-car infotainment device has a 4G data link of its own, which is fully built into the system and does not enable the user to install a SIM card or set up a data plan. This is fully open to the customer, and the monthly fee over the subscription time includes storage use costs. This helps the UVO concierge, roadside assistance, or emergency services to connect to the Internet as well as position calls. It’s also compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, in addition to the system’s own features, so you can turn to certain protocols if you choose.
The UVO system, including the newly introduced Sonet, is available on all Kia cars in India.
You can chat with it even when it’s parked and you’re away from it, using Kia’s UVO mobile app and accompanying smartwatch app, due to the car’s independent link. All this was connected to a Bose seven-speaker audio system and a 10.25-inch HD-resolution touch screen on the Kia Sonet that I had for this test (the GTX Plus 1.0L iMT variant).
Kia UVO: Inside the car
Much like your smartphone or tablet can use an internet connection to download and view fresh data all the time, when you are seated in the vehicle, Kia’s UVO technology can control a range of main functions. The most important of these are navigation, with real-time traffic data displayed by the in-car mapping feature, as well as the option to browse through a constantly updated list of points of interest.
Although I considered the maps and traffic data to be a little less detailed than Google Maps, it was definitely accessible, especially with the added convenience of being conveniently and safely visible on the console of the car. A built-in air purifier is another helpful function of this vehicle, and on the panel, the state of the air quality in the car can be seen.
The opportunity to obtain traffic and point-of-interest data on the fly is a primary value of in-car networking.
There are also some useful protection and contact capabilities of Kia’s UVO system that can be used when driving. For ambulance aid, roadside assistance, and UVO’s concierge service for navigation support, there are quick-access buttons on the rear-view mirror.
Within seconds of pressing the button, the concierge service linked me to a real individual and I was able to immediately get navigation directions for a specific location delivered to my car. I, luckily, didn’t have to use the keys for roadside help or emergency services.
The UVO device accepts voice prompts, much like smart speakers, with ‘Hi Kia’ used while seated in the car as a trigger phrase. The voice assistant of the vehicle is driven by the Houndify technology of SoundHound, which is not as capable as Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri, but has some helpful customizations.
This includes the ability to adjust the temperature and position of the air conditioning of the vehicle, monitor music and calls with a paired unit, lower or lift the driver’s window, weather alerts, and more. Speech recognition only operated correctly with the windows that were raised when driving and was only very effective when the driver’s seat order was issued. I also considered its replies to be a little sluggish and as a result, I did not see myself using it very much.
Kia UVO: Outside the car
When you’re away from the car, UVO’s genuinely noteworthy features come into play, and this is where the idea of a connected car really makes a difference. When set up and connected to the software on your smartphone or smartwatch, as long as you have Internet connectivity and your car can connect to its data network, you can manage or track certain parts of the car from anywhere you are. In Mumbai, except in a covered basement parking area where even my mobile normally loses connection, I was able to connect to the Kia Sonet almost anywhere.
I was able to turn on the car in outdoor parking spaces, monitor the air conditioning temperature, track the air quality in the cabin, lock and unlock the doors, and geo-locate the car accurately at any time. When driving, you can also follow the vehicle almost in real-time; it takes only a few seconds to change the position of the car, so it was always a little ahead of where I figured it was. A helpful aspect was being able to check on my mobile for a point of interest and then send navigation directions to the vehicle. This was much simpler than using the car’s monitor and keyboard to select positions.
Valet warnings, geofence alerts, speed tracking, burglary alerts, and reminders for simple items such as the door not being locked when the vehicle is turned off are other security features. Trip logs are still stored, and with the software, you can track items such as the fuel level, tyre strength, and general car diagnostics. If you need to track how members of your family drive the vehicle, all of this will come in especially handy.
Typically, these networking capabilities also make it easy to monitor some of the car’s functions completely remotely. This entails the opportunity to get your car remotely immobilized in case of burglary, but you can not do this explicitly. Instead, you will need to contact Kia to do this and before executing it would require certain legal processes, but it is the communication that makes this security functionality.
If you have the software mounted, some of these features can also be managed by a smartwatch. I used a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active to check out the diagnostics and remote controls, but it is also classified as compatible with smartwatches from Apple and Wear OS. You also get special watch faces with Wear OS and Tizen to open the UVO app easily from the home screen. Counterpoint,
Is a connected car worth all the fuss?
Three-quarters of all new vehicles will be linked over the next five years, according to an analysis by analytics company Counterpoint. With IoT-enabled home appliances quickly gathering momentum, it’s clear that the next major step for mobility is vehicles. Linked vehicles, while priced at a premium right now are a definite step into the future of driving and mobility.
That said, even today, many of the monitoring features available on the UVO platform make sense, especially when several individuals, including young adults or chauffeurs, are driving a car. Even items like the ability to automatically turn on the car and air conditioning might be beneficial if you want to step into a cool car before driving home, and the features of safety and comfort are certainly welcome.
That said, connected vehicles are still a little costly; the UVO system is only accessible on the higher trims on the Sonet, which cost well over Rs. 13,00,000. Using an Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compliant entertainment system which uses the mobile for certain in-car features, such as voice commands and traffic data visualization, simple networking can be accomplished. Connected cars are certainly the future, however, and today particularly Kia’s well-equipped UVO device, have an undeniable cool factor.