NAMYANG, South Korea – Following the launch of its UVO telematics system in select ’12 model-year U.S. vehicles, Kia now is at work on a version suitable for all its markets.

The South Korean brand’s AVN touchscreen technology, shown to U.S. media here, features a screen that, like a tablet computer, lets the user choose from a series of icons and change screens by swiping a fingertip.

“As of now, UVO is only for North America, whereas the next-generation is intended to be globally applicable,” Kia spokesman Michael Choo says.

Like smartphone and tablet-computer owners, users of Kia’s next-generation infotainment system will be able to download software applications to their car’s head unit via an app store, a Kia engineer working on the Hyundai-Kia multimedia platform engineering team says.

While UVO's head unit must be paired with a smartphone to perform certain functions, AVN needs no such pairing to be fully operational.

“You can hook your phone up and integrate your phone into it, but the phone is not necessary for this system to operate,” Choo says. “(But) if you hook your smartphone up to it, you can view the contents of what’s on your cell phone on the touchscreen.”

The engineer says all functions of Kia’s next-generation telematics system are voice-activated. This is becoming the norm among vehicles sold with such technology in the U.S., largely due to an increasing chorus of government and other critics questioning the safety of operating telematics systems while driving.

Choo says the video function of the new touchscreen system will be disabled while driving.

“(Engineers are) putting the most emphasis on the actual driving experience,” he says.

Some of the system’s touchscreens will be customizable, including one showing weather forecasts.

Much about the new Kia telematics system is a work-in-progress, including:

Choo says Kia’s new telematics technology will not be shared with sister-brand Hyundai, and that it was developed completely in-house at Hyundai-Kia’s main research and development center near Seoul.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com