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Kia UVO: Powered by Freescale i.MX355

Kia UVO: Mainstream Infotainment In The 2012 Soul
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When Ford unveiled SYNC in 2007, there was an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft that prohibited other manufacturers from using Windows Embedded Automotive in infotainment solutions. That agreement expired in November 2008, but it took a couple years before other manufacturers took advantage of Microsoft’s efforts.

Kia was the second vendor to hop on the Microsoft Windows Automotive train; it debuted UVO in the new-at-the-time 2011 Sorento and Optima. Availability of UVO expanded to the rest of the company's portfolio for the 2012 model year, including the Rio, Sportage, and Soul. Oddly, the trio of Kia Fortes (sedan, hatch, and coupe) is not available with the UVO option, but can be had with navigation.

At the heart of Kia’s UVO system is a Freescale i.MX355 system-on-chip, which succeeds Freescale's i.MX31L, found in first-generation Ford SYNC hardware. The i.MX355 is based on a single-core 400 MHz ARM1136 (ARM11) CPU core based on the ARMv6 architecture. This remains unchanged from the i.MX31L.

Unlike the i.MX516 Multimedia Applications Processor, featured in our look at SYNC with MyFord Touch, or the higher-end i.MX356, Freescale's i.MX355 lacks a graphics processor and instead relies on an IPU (image processing unit). The IPU handles display output and offloads deblocking, deranging, color space conversion, blending of graphics, video planes, and horizontal/vertical resizing tasks from the CPU core, yielding a fluid user interface. The company does offer an OpenVG 1.1-compatible GPU in its higher-end i.MX356, but we doubt it would have been useful in Kia's implementation of UVO.

Kia complements the Freescale i.MX355 SoC with 128 MB of DDR memory and 1 GB of NAND flash. The non-volatile memory is split up into 256 MB for the operating system and 700 MB of user storage for UVO's Jukebox feature. CSR provides its Bluecore4-Ext IC to enable UVO’s Bluetooth connectivity. The chip supports Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), facilitating hands-free calls and streaming audio. 

When it comes to connectivity, Freescale's i.MX355 supports enhanced serial audio interface (ESAI) for audio output, USB 2.0 host, camera sensor interface, and more. The semiconductor company claims the i.MX355 ESAI interface supports 5.1-channel or multi-speaker audio, and Kia takes full advantage of it to drive the Soul's eight-speaker sound system (technically, it's a standard front/center/rear/subwoofer setup, but car vendors like to count discrete tweeters as separate speakers) and the backup camera's sensor.

Sitting front and center of the UVO experience is Microsoft's Auto 4.1, which is a member of the Windows Embedded Automotive family. The operating system is very flexible in terms of features it makes available, and we saw that from SYNC with MyFord Touch. But Kia scales down what its implementation can do to keep the system fairly simple.

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