Chrysler slips out its new UConnect interface


UConnect interface

This unattached dashboard in Chryslers exhibit area showed off a new generation UConnect interface.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET)


Chrysler UConnect interface update (photos)

Wandering the floor of the 2010 Los Angeles auto show, we happened across a dashboard display in the Chrysler area. Attached to a wall, it lacked an actual
car, but its touchscreen head unit showed off the next generation interface for Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system.

Unlike Chrysler’s current system, there were no buttons on the sides of the touchscreen. A row of icons ran across the bottom of the screen, allowing access to navigation, audio, climate control, and the phone system. These icons were attractively designed and easily readable.

On current UConnect systems, we’ve complained about the haphazard button layout and childish-looking graphic design. This new interface looks much cleaner and better organized.

The unit appeared fully operational, too, not just a demo video. When we touched the phone button, it advised us that no phone was currently connected to the system.

Intriguingly, touching the navigation icon brought up an interface we know well, having seen it in many Garmin GPS devices. The familiar icons were identical to those used in Garmin units, which we’ve praised for being easy to use.

A Chrysler spokesperson advised us that the integrated Garmin navigation represented a mid-tier unit, with no integrated traffic information. We assume this means that Chrysler’s current navigation system will continue to be available, either as an option or standard in top trim cars.

Chrysler offered no information on when we might see this new UConnect interface in its cars.

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Mini tweets through iPhone

Mini ConnectedDrive

Mini showed off its new ConnectedDrive app in the Cooper Countryman.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Earlier this year Mini said it would integrate Web radio and other smartphone apps with its
cars, but gave little detail of how the system would work. At the 2010 Los Angeles auto show, we got a Mini representative to give us a demo of its new ConnectedDrive system.

To answer our most immediate question, Mini developed its own
iPhone app, so Web radio, Twitter, and the other functions it is offering actually reside on the phone, using its processor power and data connection. With the iPhone connected to the car’s USB port, control of the app gets taken over by the Mini’s onscreen interface.

Mini ConnectedDrive

The Web radio feature is powered by the iPhone, but accessed through the car.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

Added to the list of audio sources on the Mini’s LCD was Web radio, right along with satellite radio, AM, and FM. That Web radio entry only appears when a phone bearing the Mini ConnectedDrive app is hooked up. The Web radio feature of the Mini app lets you listen to thousands of radio stations that stream their audio to the Internet.

The Mini ConnectedDrive app also offers Google Local Search, Twitter, and Facebook. The interfaces for each of these functions have been designed by Mini to avoid on-road distraction. For example, the Twitter feature does not let you type in a Tweet. Instead, the car comes up with canned Tweets that you can send.

This Tweet function is kind of brilliant, as it uses data the car knows, such as location, current temperature, or how long you’ve been driving. It can take this data and punch it into Tweet templates, letting you easily update Twitter with your location or what a nice day it is while you’re driving around. Mini suggests this feature will encourage social networking amongst Mini owners, making it possible for them to enjoy a drive together while keeping organized. For example, a lead car could Tweet direction changes. Users will also be able to create their own Tweet templates.

We weren’t shown the Facebook or Google local search functions, but Mini assured us they would be designed to avoid distraction. One idea behind integrating these apps with a car interface is that drivers will be less likely to try and Tweet or look at Facebook on their phones.

Mini suggested it would build more functionality into its ConnectedDrive app as time went on. Further, the fact that the iPhone app interface now exists in the car will let Mini incorporate interfaces for other apps.


We also got to see a demonstration of another feature we had been hearing about, iPod-Out. This new feature incorporated into iPods and iPhones, lets the device send a remote interface out to a compatible screen through its cable. Mini has made its system compatible with iPod-Out.

Mini ConnectedDrive

With iPod-Out, Genius playlists become available on the Mini’s LCD.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET)

The Apple-designed interface appearing on the Mini’s LCD showed track information along with cover art. We were able to look at normal music library categories, such as album, artist, and genre, and select music by using the controls in the car.

An advantage to iPod-Out is that it should never show the kind of sluggishness we’ve seen with other iPod integration systems, which have to get raw data from an iPod and replicate it within their own interfaces.

We were also shown that Apple’s Genius Playlist functionality is also ported to the Mini’s LCD. While listening to a particular song, we chose this playlist option, and were treated to a series of songs similar to that which had been playing.

For other smartphones, Mini is looking at a new standard being developed called terminal mode, which should offer similar functionality as iPod-Out.

The Mini ConnectedDrive app is currently available in Europe, and will come out in the U.S. in January of 2011.

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Dell Duo tablet set at $549

The Dell Inspiron Duo hybrid tablet pricing starts at $549, and will be available for preorder at the Microsoft Store today and directly from Dell starting next week.

As previously reported, the tablet-Netbook crossover is being made available for preorder in conjunction with the grand opening of the Microsoft Store in the Bellevue Square Mall in Washington, according to this Microsoft blog.

Dell Inspiron Duo with a dual-core Intel Atom processor starts at $549.

Dell Inspiron Duo with a dual-core Intel Atom processor starts at $549.

The Duo comes with a dual-core Atom N550 processor, a 1366-by-768 display, 2GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard disk drive.

The tablet’s uniqueness is defined by the ability to open up the case, flip the screen, and convert it into a clamshell Netbook.

It is expected to ship in December.

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Chevrolet Volt is the 2011 Green Car of the Year

The Volts solution to range anxiety helped it nab the top spot this year.

The Volt’s solution to “range anxiety” helped it nab the top spot this year.

Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Every year at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Green
Car Journal crowns one new car the Green Car of the Year. This year that vehicle is the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

In previous years, this honor has gone to vehicles as varied as the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid to Toyota’s Prius, with the last two years had been dominated by Volkswagen and Audi’s TDI vehicles. This year, Chevrolet brings it back to the electric camp with it’s solution to what GM calls range anxiety: a range extended EV powertrain that starts as an electric, but features a gasoline engine that assists once battery levels get low.

The Volt faced competition from the Nissan Leaf, Ford Fiesta, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid for the award. Green Car Journal’s panelists cite the Volt’s 25 to 50 mile pure electric range and additional extended range of 300 miles as factors in their decision. This news comes at a very good time on the day of GM’s IPO, which is selling quite well at time of publication.

Check out CNET Car Tech’s own driving impressions of the 2011 Green Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Volt.

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PC games come to TV with OnLive’s MicroConsole

The OnLive MicroConsole and wireless controller.


We’ve been reasonably impressed to date with OnLive’s cloud-based game service, which allows nearly any Internet-connected laptop or desktop to play a variety of high-end PC games via a unique streaming system. The company’s long-awaited MicroConsole, which skips the computer altogether and streams games directly to your TV, finally has a release date and price.

The OnLive MicroConsole ships December 2 for $99, and includes a free game (games typically cost the same as retail boxed versions, around $49) and a wireless game controller.

If you’re not familiar with the service, OnLive works by offloading the CPU and GPU-intensive tasks of actually running the game software to a remote render farm, then beaming the gameplay back to you as a streaming video. It sounds far-fetched, and we were highly skeptical of the service when it was announced in 2009, but in practice, it works surprisingly well.

A closer view of the OnLive controller.


While we haven’t had a chance to examine the final hardware yet, the MicroConsole appears to be a small adaptor with an Ethernet input and video outputs, hence the low price (as no CPU or GPU is needed). Besides the custom wireless controller, a keyboard and mouse can be used (which makes sense as these are all PC games). Additionally, we’ve been able to use a wired Microsoft
Xbox 360 controller on the PC version of OnLive.

Games include a decent selection of current titles, such as Mafia II, Assassin’s Creed II, and Borderlands. Titles can be rented for a few dollars for a few days, or purchased outright (although you’re actually buying a license to play the game on OnLive’s servers, “while it is available on the OnLive gamer service,” which the company says will be until at least June 2013 for the games currently listed).

For an more on OnLive, check out our in-depth analysis here, or our interview with OnLive’s CEO, and stay tuned for our hands-on impressions of the new MicroConsole hardware.

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Porsche shows off stripped down, hotted-up Cayman R

Porsches Cayman R is 121 pounds lighter and 10 horsepower stronger than the Cayman S.

Porsche’s Cayman R is 121 pounds lighter and 10 horsepower stronger than the Cayman S.

Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

The 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show coincides with Porsche’s celebration of 60 years in the U.S. market. Drawing a line back to its first racing vehicle ever built, the midengined 1938 Type 65, Porsche unveiled the 2012 Porsche Cayman R: a lighter, stronger, faster version of the highly praised Cayman S.

The Cayman R drops 121 pounds of bulk versus the S thanks to a diet that includes the omission of the infotainment system, lighter aluminum door skins, carbon-fiber-backed sport bucket seats, and interior door panels from the 911 GT3 RS. In addition to being lighter, the R is also more powerful squeezing 10 more ponies out of the same 3.4-liter direct-injection six-cylinder boxer engine that lives under the hood of the S model for a total of 330 horsepower. Zero to 60 mph comes in 4.7 seconds. Top speed with the manual transmission jumps to 175 mph–with the automatic PDK that number drops to 174 mph.

2012 Porsche Cayman R (photos)

The R’s suspension has been lowered by 20mm all around and its chassis has received tweaks to make the coupe more responsive and agile. Standard on the R, but optional on the S, is a limited slip differential and the Cayman aerodynamics kit. Of course, the R also gets upgraded brakes and special rolling stock–the same 19-inch wheel-and-tire package that can be found on the Boxter Spyder.

Expect the Cayman R to carry an MSRP of $66,300 when it debuts in February 2011.

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