Sprint shows off wireless tech in two Chrysler vehicles at L.A. Auto Show

New Sprint Velocity platform powers Uconnect services inside Ram 1500 truck and new SRT Viper automobile

Sprint is set to showcase its Velocity in-vehicle communications platform in Chrysler's redesigned 2013 Ram 1500 truck and new SRT Viper car at the L.A. Auto Show this week.

Sprint had disclosed in August its selection as telematics integrator and wireless connectivity provider for Chrysler Group's Uconnect Access in-vehicle services

The Velocity wireless services installed in the two vehicles will allow iPhones and Android smartphones to control certain functions, including remote vehicle lock and unlock.

Sprint technology is also key to dashboard displays that connect to streaming audio and other Internet services, as well as activate a Wi-Fi hotspot for vehicle occupants, said Tom Nelson, direct of global wholesale and emerging solutions for Sprint.

"You'll have a unique experience in the Chrysler vehicles, but each model will have its own personality that folds in telematics so the wireless experience may be different based on the brand," Nelson said in an interview Tuesday. "We have an adaptable platform."

While Chrysler vehicles are the first to use Velocity, Sprint has plans to work with other worldwide auto manufacturers. Nelson didn't disclose which other car makers interested in the Velocity platform.

Nelson said the communications technology allows a smartphone to remotely lock or unlock or even start a Ram 1500 truck. If the vehicle is stolen, Velocity can be used to transmit GPS coordinates to a smartphone.

From a dashboard display, occupants can launch a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows passengers to access the Internet via tablets, laptops and smartphones. The Wi-Fi operates while the vehicle is cruising and uses a Sprint 3G cellular connection to the Internet.

Sprint also integrated cloud services to aid hands-free functions for greater safety, such as voice-to-text functions for sending emails or text messages.

Voice can also be used to search the Web. Sprint's voice-to-text engine is designed to Chrysler's specifications and hosted in the cloud.

Nelson said Sprint provides both cellular connectivity and wireless integration services.

"We will have an end-to-end solution for vehicle manufacturers -- that's a Sprint differentiator," he said. "We actually bring mobile and consumer electronics together with Sprint's human factor specialists so when anybody's in the vehicle, the wireless experience is as intuitive as using a smartphone."

Only 4% of U.S. vehicles are connected to the Internet today, Nelson said. The number is expected to grow to 90% within 10 years, providing Sprint and other wireless carriers and software designers like Microsoft plenty of opportunities.

As Sprint rolls out its faster LTE network, its cellular connections to vehicles will become faster, Nelson said. However, not all machine-to-machine connections require the speed of an LTE network, and many can run well over slower 2G networks.

Nelson said he's driven the new SRT Viper automobile and most enjoys the voice texting feature enabled with Velocity. "I also like the ability to turn on my car so it's nice and toasty before I get in to drive it," he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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