This past April I got a sneak peek at the 2013 SRT Viper model from Chrysler at the New York City Auto Show. Peggy Smedley and I were on hand at the event to present Chrysler with its award for Connected Car of the Year, and got a treat when the sleek sports car made a grand entrance on stage before an exclusive group of media.
During the presentation Chrysler executives hinted that the model would include some next-generation connectivity. I remember jotting that down in my notes as being considerably noteworthy simply due to the fact in-vehicle connectivity wasn’t exactly common among sports cars. Having just come off the process of voting for the Connected Car of the Year, Peggy and I had become very accustomed to every make and model on the market, as we had to—forgive the pun—kick the tires on every car across every segment of the market. For the most part, sports cars were not fully loaded with infotainment technology at the time. That is to be expected, as drivers of these vehicles are perhaps more focused on performance rather than staying connected.
Still, when Chrysler mentioned the next-generation connectivity, I made sure to keep my ears open. Sure enough, when listening in on the press announcement this morning between Chrysler and Sprint announcing that the wireless carrier would be the partner for the automaker’s next-generation Uconnect system, the 2013 SRT Viper was one of the models listed for the launch of this partnership. In fact, only two models have been announced, including the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup.
For the most part, the press conference talked very high level around the need for enhancing the driver experience and how the two companies believe they are paired nicely to position these vehicles to become the future of automotive technology.
Officially, Sprint will be the partner for Chrysler Group’s Uconnect Access in-vehicle communication system. The platform will use the Sprint Connected Vehicle architecture and delivers built-in vehicle connectivity via embedded wireless technology. Voice commands and even a Wi-Fi hotspot within the vehicle were among the highlighted features talked about during the press conference. Much time was devoted to talking about the smartphone experience of the user today and how the two companies are working to help bring that device into the car in order to further enhance the experience.
I asked a few questions related to the build out of next-generation wireless networks and how that might help further streamline service delivery to the platform, but the two companies stayed pretty broad in their answers, as is to be expected. The Chrysler executive pondered a scenario where streaming video for rear-seat entertainment could be further enhanced by the 4G network, which Sprint acknowledged its plans for aggressive build-out by 2013.
When I asked about what this means for future vehicles—and even existing model lines, like the Connected Car of the Year-winning Chrysler 300—all that could be said was said that they are working on current roadmaps and were not at liberty to reveal any rollout plans.
Here is what I liked about the announcement: Chrysler kept mentioning M2M by name. The automaker clearly recognizes the role of the underlying technology, and even referenced Sprint’s ongoing efforts around connected transportation as one of the values it brings to this partnership.
I like all the chatter about the connected car lately. Honda is talking it up for upcoming models, our editors are being invited to exclusive events for automakers like Acura, and companies like Chrysler are continuing to invent in next-generation technologies. All the talk earlier in the year about the role government policy against distracted driving might have on this segment has certainly cooled.
In part, I believe that is directly related to the fact each automaker is leading its discussions around the safe and responsible consumption of content within the vehicle. And that remains important. Seeing how they pull it off in the end is what I am most interested in seeing. And if that means a personal drive in the SRT Viper to try it out myself, I am fully on board.