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Sarah Tew/CNET

Sprint brings the connected car to Chrysler

At the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, Chrysler showed off a Ram 1500 pickup and SRT Viper featuring its new UConnect Access infotainment suite, powered by Sprint's Velocity platform.

2013 SRT Viper
The SRT Viper is among the first beneficiaries of a new Chrysler/Sprint partnership. Sarah Tew/CNET

LOS ANGELES -- The connected car is fast becoming a reality, and Chrysler leveraged Sprint's expertise to bring two of its vehicles at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show online. Chrysler fitted the Ram 1500 pickup and SRT Viper supercar with its new UConnect Access system, an evolution of the UConnect infotainment suite.

UConnect combined navigation, hands-free phone, and digital audio into an integrated system, and uses a single touch-screen interface. UConnect Access adds a number of connected features to the system, such as online points-of-interest search through Bing.

UConnect Access
UConnect Access offers emergency services at the push of a button. Chrysler

The new system also brings in a full telematics service, with features similar to GM's Onstar. Drivers will be able to push a button on the rearview mirror frame to request emergency assistance. A smartphone app will let owners unlock the doors and start the engine remotely.

UConnect Access adds voice texting, reading out incoming messages to help drivers avoid distraction, and using voice recognition to let drivers compose new messages to send. Because of differing implementations of the Bluetooth standard, this texting feature may not work with every phone.

Sprint is using the partnership with Chrysler to launch a new automotive connected platform called Velocity. Tom Nelson, director of marketing for Sprint, says Velocity is an end-to-end solution, and that it will let the company offer automakers a data connection, human-machine interface expertise for in-car electronics, and telematics services.

Velocity uses Sprint's 3G network for data services over CDMA, although Nelson says that Sprint will leverage its agreements with other data networks so that automakers can use a Velocity-backed system internationally. Automakers would have to implement appropriate cell radios in their cars to work with networks in other countries.

For the telematics component, Sprint contracts with other providers that maintain emergency and concierge call centers.