LAS VEGAS — Car makers didn’t participate in the giant CES trade show until 2007, but you would have never known that by attending CES this year. Between hugely extravagant exhibits, a bunch of sexy concept cars and numerous glitzy keynote addresses, a good chunk of CES is now used to highlight automotive technology.
Auto makers are increasingly looking towards consumer electronics and services to differentiate their vehicles. They want to connect your next car to your smartphone, let it talk to your home and drive itself in the years ahead. Here’s a roundup of what we saw and heard from the auto companies this week at CES.
Ford kicked off press day at CES 2016 by saying they plan to expand aggressively into the $5.4 trillion transportation services market, and struck a new deal with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa voice-recognition service. The company also shared plans for autonomous vehicles using LiDAR sensors, vision, ultrasonic and radar to sense a car’s external environment.
Ford was widely rumored to announce a partnership with Google around autonomous vehicles, but nothing was said at CES. It is entirely possible that such an announcement with Google is queued up for next week’s North American Auto Show in Detroit. We’ll have to wait and see.
Volkswagen’s new CEO, Dr. Herbert Diess, took to the CES keynote stage on Tuesday night, starting with a long apology to the American people for the company’s fraudulent emission systems issues. Diess then demonstrated Volkswagen’s vision for cars of the future.
Volksagen’s e-Golf Touch is a prototype electric vehicle that could hit the market soon, sporting a 9.2 inch touch infotainment system that takes input via voice and gestures.
Looking further into the future, the Volkswagen BUDD-e is long-range all-electric microbus evolved from the original VW Bus. The car does away with door handles and is opened via voice command or gesture. On-board apps portrayed connectivity to the smart home where a driver can unlock home doors for guests from the car, check the contents of a fridge or put appliances in “away mode” when you drive away.
Faraday Future wins the CES hype award, with throngs of people crowded around their FFZERO1, a 1,000 horsepower electric concept car that supposedly will go 0-60 mph in under three seconds.
The company was roundly criticized by a variety of automotive press for showing a “hypercar” that is not operational and actually lacked the company’s variable platform architecture that their production vehicles are supposed to be built on. Seemingly this was more of a “hypecar” than a “hypercar.”
The company’s mysterious funding was also recently revealed to come from Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, and the company has plans to break ground on a $1 billion factory north of Las Vegas in the coming weeks.
Before the show began, GM announced a massive investment in ride-hailing service Lyft to create a “network of autonomous vehicles. GM CEO Mary Barra appeared in a keynote address unveiling the Chevy Bolt, an all-electric car designed to reach the masses. The Bolt will have a 200-mile range and cost around $30,000 after government clean energy incentives.
Toyota showed off a variety of concept cars in its booth, including its continued push towards hydrogen-powered vehicles with the FCV Plus. The FCV Plus is designed to run on hydrogen, but also capable of using hydrogen from an external tank to generate electricity for a home or office.
The company’s research chief also added a dose of realism to the hype around autonomous vehicles at the show, stating that much of the science to get fully-autonomous cars on the road has yet to be accomplished.
Fiat Chrysler was all about in-car connectivity and display, unveiling the latest version of their Uconnect system that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A new Dodge Charger with custom law enforcement displays and controls was also featured.
Audi took to CES to show off its infotainment ambitions with their Virtual Dashboard. The Virtual Dashboard uses AMOLED screens and haptic feedback for the driver.
The German company also wins the prize for the most exotic and elaborate booth at CES. The large metal frame enclosure was striking, to say the least, and a bit unnerving to walk under.
Kia was at the show promoting its research efforts in autonomous vehicles, promising a fully-autonomous vehicle on the road by 2030.
The Korean automaker wins the award for the most unusual VR demo to demonstrate its autnomous vehicle ideas. Strapped in to a self-driving Soul EV hatchback and donning a VR headset, the driver was placed into a first-person shooter game where they engage in gun battles while the car pilots itself. (I’m not making this up.)
Mercedes was on hand at CES with a new show car called the Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile (IAA). When the car reaches 50 mph, it transforms into aerodynamic mode where the tail of the car extends 15 inches, wheel rims expand outwards and front bumper flaps extend out.