Uconnect Multimedia Center

​The beginning of a connected FCA

Developed in Brazil, the new multimedia center Uconnect kicks off the FCA connectivity project.

November 12, 2020 - In June, the New Fiat Strada began circulating through the streets of Brazil. Inside the car, without using a cord, drivers and passengers connect their cell phones to a modern multimedia center, which provides access to a radio, on-board computer with information about the vehicle and all the features available for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Developed by FCA in Brazil, the new multimedia center Uconnect is also present in the Fiat Toro and will be incorporated into other vehicles of different FCA brands in the world.

Gustavo Felicori, platform manager at FCA for Latin America, says that the media center is a pioneering development by FCA. Uconnect is the first multimedia center to offer wireless connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Brazil, in addition to having tools for personalized use: for example, in a family car, each user can create an individual profile, with their own layout and configurations, in addition to being able to connect two cell phones at the same time.

“Our priority was to deliver a new generation of multimedia center that would bring an experience similar to what our customers have today with smartphones. It was an evolution not only of the interface; the product has become much more intuitive and customizable”, says Breno Kamei, director of Portfolio, Research and Competitive Intelligence at FCA for Latin America.

A Global and Connected Consumer

Technology has been a determining factor in the journey towards purchasing a vehicle. “When we evaluate other countries and other segments, we see that Brazil has a very digitalized consumer, who wants the car to be as connected as the cell phone,” says Juliana Silva, FCA's Connectivity Planning specialist for Latin America. She explains that people are increasingly demanding solutions integrated with brands and devices they already use in their daily lives. “Inside the car, the Brazilian consumer seeks technology to optimize time, make better decisions and connect with other ecosystems in which he/she already uses. And the car is an essential part of that journey”, he adds.

Juliana Silva, FCA Connectivity Planning Specialist for Latin AmericaFor Juliana Silva, the consumer has been demanding more technological solutions typically mobile.

For this endeavor, the FCA teams needed to add the development of a platform to meet customer demands and perceptions in the Americas, Europe and Asia. “All of our work is done thinking about our client's individuality and how we can guarantee this customization of the solutions integrated into the vehicle”, says Juliana.

Simplicity and Safety

For this, we carried out several sessions of usability testing and research with users who have a consumer profile of owning different cars and different brands. “This ensured the development of a multimedia center that is much more responsive to these needs”, says Leandro Alvarenga, User Experience Design manager.

The platform was developed to simplify use and avoid the need for manuals: the consumer can interact the way he/she is used to with the cell phone. “We use the mobile interface as a reference, which is cleaner, with less information, for the client to perform tasks quickly and not be distracted”, explains Juliana. To ensure that the panel is not a distraction, certain functions are disabled when the car is in motion, for example. “The integration of mobile environments with the vehicle and the perspective of safety are fundamental points for delivering user experience design”, says Leandro.

More than 100 tests performed with Brazilian and foreign consumers evaluated whether the strategy and the product developed actually delivered FCA's proposals, from the point of view of use and market acceptance. “Several connectivity services that will be born in the future are based on the existence of this new exchange. It brings a new and positive entry into a contemporary moment, when what matters in the car is not only torque and power, but also technology”, reflects Leandro.

In the following video, you can see the functionalities of the new UConnect multimedia center:

Multifunctional Development

To bring the connectivity project to life with the new multimedia center, FCA has been mobilizing a multifunctional team, which unites teams of branding, portfolio, quality, engineering, design and user experience, in addition to suppliers and other partners. “Uconnect is very complex. It needs to operate in the vehicle environment and interact with an external component, which is the smartphone. The evolution of connectivity is the interaction with services that are not inside the car, offered by the automaker, by partners and by the customer's own gadgets. We had to create a project management methodology that had a scope in all these areas”, says Felicori.

The management and technical development of the version launched with the New Fiat Strada took place between 2018 and 2020. “The process begins with the elaboration of technical specifications, followed by several loops of discussions with potential suppliers and technology companies”, recalls Fernando Ataíde, manager of Uconnect and driver assistance systems at FCA. The concept phase of the project includes revisions to specifications involving the FCA engineering team in the United States, Italy and China. All versions foreseen in the portfolio are designed, validated and developed by FCA's engineering centers together with suppliers.

Gustavo Felicori, FCA platform manager for Latin AmericaFor Gustavo Felicori, platform manager at FCA for Latin America, Uconnect represents the beginning of a connected FCA.

For Fernando, the greatest challenge was, and still is, the complexity of the platform, which has other versions in the process of development. “It’s a multimedia center with six different display sizes, with HMI (Human-Machine Interface) variation, with application and global development in seven FCA brands, with dozens of models of vehicles in parallel production”, he says. Gustavo remembers daily meetings with FCA colleagues from different parts of the world, to monitor and solve problems. “There are many countries and cultures working together, and it worked very well. We are building a connectivity platform and we work connected”, he reflects.

For the FCA platform manager, the main legacy for the team is the know-how acquired in different specialties, becoming a reference in the company and integrated with major global partners, such as Apple, Google and the suppliers involved in the development: “The capacity to develop connectivity products remains. The professionals who participate in this project have the opportunity to develop knowledge and have acquired unprecedented experiences.

We have a team in several areas of the company now able to develop global connectivity solutions for our customers, managing simultaneous activities in several countries, with multiple partners and in a very efficient and productive way”. The launch of Uconnect 7” brought new processes and skills to the organization and definitively inserted FCA into the world of connectivity, both in our product portfolio and in the virtual work environment. “And this launch represents only the beginning of the connected FCA”, says Gustavo.

As part of the digital transformation project, on October 28th FCA Latam and TIM Brasil announced a partnership to offer embedded connectivity solutions in vehicles of the Fiat, Jeep and Ram brands from the first half of 2021. FCA's next vehicles in Brazil will have an eSIM - a virtual chip for access to native Wi-Fi - on board, with the quality of TIM's 4G coverage and the largest Internet of Things (IoT) network in the country. “The world is changing and you need data, whether it's for private or professional life. Look at what 4G technology allows us to do, with the connected car. And I think this is just the beginning of something that will completely change our lives”, said Pietro Labriola, CEO of TIM Brasil.

Drivers and passengers will be able to use the vehicle to carry out the same type of operations that they perform today on the smartphone. “Connectivity is not the shortest distance between points. It is the best distance”, said Antonio Filosa, president of FCA for Latin America.

Words: Luiza Lages

Pictures: Marketing

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