DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group will make its long-awaited entry into telematics this fall when the automaker begins offering anin-vehicle, hands-free, voice-activated communications system called UConnect, according to the Detroit News
.UConnect lets customers use one mobile phone and one account for service inside and outside a vehicle. It will be available as a dealer-installed option on most 2003 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars and trucks for $299 plus labor costs. There will be no monthly subscription fee beyond what a customer already pays for mobile phone service, according to the News
.In-vehicle communications and entertainment were once considered the next great profit center for automakers, expected to generate up to $42 billion in revenues by 2010 through annual subscription fees. But last week Ford Motor Co. abandoned its Wingcast LLC joint venture with mobile phone maker Qualcomm to cut costs. General Motors Corp.'s OnStar service continues to lose money, although the automaker expects OnStar to become profitable as its subscriber base grows.Chrysler will offer UConnect in the Chrysler PT Cruiser, 300M, Concorde, Sebring Coupe, Sebring Sedan, Voyager, Town & Country; the Dodge Stratus Coupe, Stratus sedan, Neon, Intrepid, Caravan, Grand Caravan, Dakota, Durango, Ram; and Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee.The Mopar version of UConnect features voice dialing, an audio address book storing 32 phone numbers, audio system mute and call transfer.It works in the three major languages spoken in Chrysler's key North American markets – French, Spanish and English – and provides multi-phone recognition that allows up to five phones to be used within the vehicle's system.Chrysler is using Peiker Acoustic's hands-free system for Uconnect, which consists of a control pad, speaker, microphone, wiring harness and a control module containing Clarity voice recognition software and a Bluetooth chipset.Mopar also plans to offer UConnect in the future to customers of older model Chrysler vehicles.Unlike competitive offerings, the system's communication is driven through a user's wireless phone. Owners can use their current mobile phone service carrier and telephone number or sign-up for enhanced services with AT&T Wireless.UConnect allows multiple phones to be used within the vehicle's system, adapting to individual or family use.