CES has become something of an auto show. The earliest instances of automakers at the show were limited, mostly focusing on in-car entertainment (Ford had the first big keynote address from an automaker in 2007 when they revealed SYNC). But as the automotive industry begins to shift to marketing vehicles as tech devices rather than merely just cars, CES has become an opportunity for automakers to show off their current and upcoming innovations.
What was big this year? EVs for one; concepts from major manufacturers primarily had batteries and electric motors in lieu of internal combustion. Autonomous tech was also front and center, with more automakers (like Kia and Ford) announcing they were ramping up their development of self-driving cars, as well as companies like Mobileye and Nvidia showcasing their own tech and upcoming partnerships with big manufacturers. But if one thing is clear, in-car interfaces and entertainment are getting way more sophisticated. Expect more screens, smart home connection, haptic touch and gesture control in the near future.
There was a lot to take in this year at CES, but these are some of our favorite concepts, products and announcements from this year’s show that indicate where the car industry is headed.
Chevy’s new entry-level EV boasts a 200-mile range and — according to Mary Barra at her Keynote address — can recharge to 80 percent battery power in about an hour. What’s more, at a reported MSRP of $37,500 (before a $7,500 federal tax credit) it’s affordable, making the EV more appealing to the car buying masses. Look for it on sale later this year.
Volkswagen e-Golf Touch
The first of two concepts unveiled by VW at their CES keynote was the electric e-Golf Touch. Inside the car resides an updated version of VW’s MIB infotainment system, with a larger 9.2-inch touchscreen display. The system includes gesture control, upgraded voice control (rather than pushing a button, just say “Hello Volkswagen”) and wireless charging for all vehicle occupants. The best part? You can expect these features to be available from VW within a year.
Volkswagen’s second concept was a Microbus-inspired concept that is based on VW’s new scalable Modular Electric Platform (MEB) for plug-in vehicles. It has a range of 373 miles (based on the New European Driving Cycle, tested on the EPA cycle the range is 233 miles), all-wheel-drive and a top speed of 93 mph. The interior has wireless charging and gesture controls like the e-Golf, but in addition shows off video connectivity to home smart devices from LG and DoorBird.
Audi E-Tron Quattro
The E-Tron Quattro is an upcoming all-electric SUV from Stuttgart due to arrive by 2018. It has a 95 kW battery with an estimated range of about 310 miles. It also shows off Audi’s latest autonomous tech Piloted Driving that can navigate traffic jams on its own as well as highway driving situations.
Faraday Future FFZERO1
Faraday Future’s first concept unveiling was a Le Mans-inspired EV with, purportedly, 1,000 horsepower on tap. More important, though, is the chassis that the car sits on: a modular setup that can be reconfigured to accommodate different body types and sizes, motor setups and battery packs.
Ford and Amazon Partnership
Everyone was expecting Ford to comment on their reported partnership with Google at this year’s convention. Instead, Ford announced a partnership with another tech giant: Amazon. Ford’s SYNC and AppConnect systems will be integrated with Amazon Echo and Amazon’s voice concierge Alexa to connect cars to smart home technology and perform functions like opening a garage door or checking your thermostat.
BMW Heads-Up Display Helmet
BMW showcased a new gesture-control concept, but we’re more excited about BMW Motorrad’s new helmet concept. It has a display in the rider’s field of view, showing important information navigated via a control on the handlebars of the rider’s motorcycle. The helmet also includes a front-facing camera to film the road ahead and a rear-facing camera that acts as a virtual rear-view mirror.
Kia Drive Wise
Kia announced at CES its new Drive Wise sub-brand, essentially the Korean car maker’s attempt to put autonomous cars on the road very soon. By 2020, the first Drive Wise cars will be available with semi-autonomous driving features (think Tesla’s current Autopilot or Cadillac’s upcoming Super Cruise) and in 2030 the brand hopes to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road.
Nvidia Drive PX 2
According to Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, the Drive PX 2 is the world’s first supercomputer for cars. It has 12 CPU cores (computing power equivalent to 150 Macbook Pros) and is liquid cooled. Nvidia says it can perform 24 trillion operations per second, which would make it ideal for autonomous cars, allowing them to adapt to changing road and environmental conditions as quickly as possible. Volvo is reportedly purchasing several hundred PX 2 units for its autonomous driving research.