NOVI, MI –believes it has all its bases covered with its new BlueLink telematics system debuting in the ’12 Sonata sedan, arriving at U.S. dealers later this month or in early July.
BlueLink’s many features range from a vehicle-diagnostic information system to a feature that allows owners to set alerts if their teenager 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,” Michael Dietz, manager-product planning forMotor America, tells Ward’s in an interview here.
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 provides door unlock and vehicle start, plus operation of the horn and 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’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 a 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. Additionally, BlueLink 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. “It defeats the purpose if they can work around that.”
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; gas prices; and a point-of-interest search with advanced voice recognition.
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.
Dietz demonstrates the voice navigation system to locate a restaurant. A BlueLink-equipped Hyundai owner, via MyHyundai.com, can set his restaurant preferences based on star ratings.
“If I only like restaurants that are 1-3 stars, more casual restaurants, I can set those up,” he says. “If I only want 4- or 5-stars, I can set that up.”
While the onboard navigation system is flash-memory-based, the point-of-interest search is cloud-based, allowing Hyundai to update at will. It already has tweaked the gas-price feature, removing premium and diesel prices, because the brand doesn’t use those fuels and their inclusion lengthens the playback.
Say Dietz: “I want to keep as much (information) cloud-based as possible, because you can do enhancements to the user experience.” Once new content is added to the hardware, “it becomes a legacy system.”
The upcoming Veloster coupe, on sale this summer, will be the next Hyundai to get BlueLink, which eventually will be available throughout the brand’s lineup.
While Pandora Internet radio streaming is available on Sonatas via BlueLink, the Veloster’s BlueLink version has the feature preloaded, allowing full control via the stereo unit and with the same thumbs up/thumbs down voting available to phone-app users.
More such entertainment features are on Dietz’s wish list for BlueLink. For instance, Hyundai currently is studying whether to allow Facebook posts.
“There’s stuff we don't even know we need yet,” he laughs. “It happens so quickly. Five years ago if you said, ‘Facebook’ to people, (they) probably wouldn't have known what it was.”
BlueLink Assurance is free for six months, while Essentials and Guidance have a 3-month free trial period. Both timeframes can be doubled if the customer chooses an automatic renewal in the first 30 days’ of ownership.
Two- and 3-year contracts also are available, with prices ranging from $139 for two years of Assurance to $699 for the combined three tiers.