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Kia upgrades UVO telematics system with new services

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At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Kia adds a suite of connected services to its voice-activated UVO in-car telematics platform. Plus, its vision for the future of infotainment.

LAS VEGAS -- Korean automaker Kia on Tuesday introduced the latest version of its in-car telematics system, UVO, adding new services to its existing voice-activated (UVO is short for "your voice") infotainment platform.

The automaker debuted the system in an Optima Hybrid sedan here at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.

The new services, aptly named "eServices," work in conjunction with a mobile application and span the navigation, diagnostics and convenience realms.

Among them:

  • eServices Guide: Places a phone call to a voice response system that explains UVO eServices to the driver in an interactive manner. It can be accessed via touch or voice.
  • Car Care Web: A place for owners to check vehicle diagnostics, vehicle status, maintenance schedules, driving behavior, alerts and nearby dealers.
  • Send2Car: Allows owners to send a destination from Google Maps to their mobile phone for later reference. (The next time the phone is paired via Bluetooth with the car, it will send the destination to the vehicle's navigation system.)
  • Vehicle Diagnostics: Identifies problems and sends them, and the car's location, to a 24/7 Kia call center or nearby dealer. It can be set to automatically do so.
  • Crash Notification Assist: Alerts emergency services in the event of an airbag deployment. The system will actually read the vehicle's location aloud to an operator. Drivers have a 10-second window to cancel the call.
  • My Car Zone: Think of it like parental controls for the car. "Curfew Limits" via time stamps or GPS coordinates can be set so that an alert is issued if the car leaves a designated area or time window. (Unfortunately, the alert is only delivered when the owner pairs his or her smartphone with the system -- it's not a text message or similar.) A "Speed Watch" setting does the same for maximum speed.
  • Park Assist: Sends the location of your vehicle to your smartphone (and displays it on a map) when you can't find it in a parking lot or similar situation.

I didn't get a chance to test them out on the showfloor, but the deciding factor in their success in the field will be how easy they are to use. Does it take a long time to set these features up, or is it relatively painless?

At CES, Kia also introduced its vision for the future tech-connected car, a one-stop-feature-shop it calls its "In-Vehicle Infotainment Concept."

In it, navigation, media playback and connected services are accessed through a single 11.6-inch touchscreen, which can work with a tablet or smartphone to share content, such as contacts or music. In-car wireless charging for those devices is one welcome feature; another is an augmented reality navigation system, though Kia only imagined it on the center screen and not the dashboard, a decidedly more futuristic choice.

In many ways, Kia's IVI concept and the latest version of its UVO platform are already a reality for rival automakers like Ford. But if you're in the market for a Kia, it's a nice touch.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure