HYUNDAI BELIEVES IT HAS ALL ITS BASES covered with its new BlueLink telematics system debuting in the '12 Sonata sedan, arriving now at U.S. dealers.
BlueLink's many features range from a vehicle-diagnostic information system to a feature that allows owners to set alerts if their teen-ager drives outside a set geographic boundary to locating a casual Japanese restaurant.
“We're hoping these features are ones people will use on a regular basis,” says Michael Dietz, manager-product planning for Hyundai Motor America.
BlueLink is a tiered subscription service, starting at $79 annually for the base Assurance, which includes automatic collision notification, 911 dialing and enhanced roadside assistance using GPS.
A monthly vehicle report also is part of Assurance, available on the BlueLink website or sent to an owner's email address, with information on how well the vehicle systems are operating. This information can be provided to the insurance company, as well, for good-driving discounts.
For an additional $100 a year, BlueLink's second-tier Essentials adds convenience features such as location-sharing with social-networking sites; a mobile app for Androids, Blackberrys and iPhones; and a remote-function system that will start the car, unlock the doors and turn on the lights.
Essentials' voice text-messaging is the only BlueLink feature that relies on the consumer's cell phone being synced via Bluetooth and located in the car. Some other telematics' systems, namely Toyota's Entune, require a synced smartphone that runs the system on the service provider's data network.
“Our voice-text feature will enable you, in natural language, to send out a text message,” Dietz says. “So you can say, ‘I'm getting Chinese food and I'll be home in 20 minutes,’ rather than just ‘Be back soon.’”
Essentials also provides recall information, maintenance alerts and an automated diagnostic trouble-code notification. If, for example, the check-engine light goes on, the driver will be prompted on the navigation or audio screen to press a BlueLink button for more information.
“You can push the button and find out about the severity of (the notification)” and whether to pull off the road and call roadside assistance or wait and have the car serviced soon, Dietz says.
Another element of Essentials is the so-called safeguard features: stolen vehicle recovery; slowdown and immobilization; and the teen-driver geographic boundary called Geo-Fence.
There's also curfew alert, which sends text messages, emails or places an automated phone call to the car's owner when the vehicle is being driven past the set curfew. BlueLink also sends a speed alert when a top-speed boundary is exceeded.
Dietz says an owner's PIN code is intended to deter crafty teens who may want to circumvent these restrictions.
BlueLink's third-tier Guidance builds on Assurance and Essentials features and costs $279 annually.
The premium program adds turn-by-turn navigation, given audibly if there is no onboard navigation system; traffic information, including the driver's ability to pre-select daily routes and be guided to less-congested roads; weather reports; restaurant ratings; and gas prices.
Dietz says BlueLink takes and relays all information audibly, although onboard-navigation-equipped vehicles allow for keying in information, as well.
BlueLink uses voice engines from Nuance Communications and Vlingo, both Massachusetts-based firms. ATX of Texas provides the algorithm and operates the system's call center, although phone operators will identify it to callers as “Hyundai BlueLink.”
The call center staff can intervene should the voice-recognition system fail. But Dietz says the technology used by BlueLink is fairly robust and able to understand a variety of accents.
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