‘Connectivity’ is the big thing in the auto industry these days and where it once simply meant that the driver could connect a portable music device to the audio system or make phone calls with the smartphone connected, this feature has today broadened in scope to even include being able to connect to the internet from the car.
Such technological features start at the higher end of the market with the expensive premium and luxury models. Then they start to trickle down to lower segments as the costs of the systems and technology reduce due to increased volumes. Examples are keyless entry systems and vehicle stability control – 20 years ago, you could only find them on expensive models but today, many more motorists can have them as they are even in Perodua models.
With the new X70 SUV that Proton will launch in the near future, an advanced level of connectivity will be available which will not only make motoring more enjoyable but also safer. This is through the standard provision of the GKUI, an Integrated Cockpit Information System. It’s not known what ‘GKUI’ stands for although ‘G’ would likely refer to Geely while ‘UI’ typically means ‘User Interface’.
The GKUI has been adapted from a similar system that Geely is using in many of its models and when it was originally launched, it was said to refer to a ‘Smart Ecosystem’ which is a key element in the company’s transformation from a traditional automaker into an internet-based and new energy company.
As the GKUI has already been running successfully and reliably in Geely’s models, it was just a matter of customising it to suit the requirements of Malaysian customers and one difference is that the language recognition has been modified to be ‘Malaysian English’. There is no alternative language available at this time although Proton says that it will look into that requirement if it is necessary to do so.
The ‘face’ of the GKUI is an 8-inch full colour (1280 x 720) touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard. Behind the screen, there is a Visteon SmartCore cockpit domain controller platform that provides and manages the Human Machine Interface and provides access to multiple sources of information. Different user functions are available via apps as well as the option to stay connected to the car via a compatible mobile device.
“The GKUI in the Proton X70 allows owners to stay almost constantly connected to their car. It’s an active two-way system that allows for multiple options to fit the preferences of individual owners. In the future, the ability to download additional apps will also be offered and just like mobile devices, it means no two cars will be exactly alike,” said Abdul Rashid Musa, CEO of Proton Edar.
Featuring an embedded eSIM card, the GKUI is preloaded with 5 apps offering services such as online radio, online music, navigation, weather forecasts and voice recognition. While data and music media can be stored on USB thumbdrives, the system also comes with a generous 16GB of internal memory space. Additionally, because of wireless broadband connectivity, the system can also access the ‘cloud’ while the vehicle is on the move.
The system also has wifi connectivity so the X70 can be used as a mobile hotspot for others in the cabin to have wireless services. To fully exploit the connectivity capabilities, owners can pair their vehicles with their personal mobile device via Proton Link and use an individual ID that is assigned to every buyer. They can then create a profile of their driving, thanks to the on-board telematics that will record and show (on their phone) data such as distance travelled, fuel economy, journey times and even keep track of service intervals. There is also a ‘find my car’ function that will be particularly useful when parking in huge and unfamiliar parking complexes.
For now, the GKUI is only compatible with the Android operating system and has full mirroring capabilities. This means apps that owners have on their device – Waze being one popular app – can be accessed on the X70’s touchscreen and used from there. Apple devices cannot be connected in the same way but they can interface via Bluetooth to access telephony functions and contact lists.
With voice recognition, driving safety is enhanced and just by saying ‘Hi Proton’, the system will listen to what the driver says (although the phrases must be specific) and execute the desired action. This could be to open or close all the windows or adjust the air-conditioner temperature. Because the system is connected to the internet, it is also possible to ask for places to eat that are nearby and the appropriate search app will be used.
“The Proton X70 is the first Proton model to use voice recognition technology, which is something we think our owners will appreciate. Hundreds of voice samples were recorded for each phrase to ensure the system would have a high degree of accuracy even when you take dialects into account. For ease of use, the GKUI will also type out each spoken phrase on the screen to confirm each command. Currently, the GKUI offers voice recognition for English phrases only as there are software limitations but we have ensured the phrases it recognises are easy to use even for owners who are not fluent speakers of the language,” Encik Abdul Rashid explained.
From the demonstration shown to the media, the performance of the GKUI was impressive with exceptionally quick response to commands. With some voice recognition systems, the spoken command may not be recognised and there may be a lag as the system is ‘confused’ but the GKUI in the X70 did not show such problems. Of course, we’ll have to wait till the model is on the roads throughout the country and see if it has difficulty with the way some words are pronounced in certain regions of Malaysia.
Prices for the X70 are still not being revealed although a Proton official said that customers will be surprised when the announcement is made as the speculation ‘might not be true’. One thing is clear though and that is the level of standard equipment is high across the four variants, all of which will have a 1.8-litre T-GDI petrol engine and 6-speed automatic transmission.
Visit www.proton.com to locate a showroom to book a unit if you want to be among the first to own one.