It may not be a formal part of the annual auto show calendar, but CES has become one of the biggest events of the year for the automotive world. Tech and cars, after all, are becoming more closely entangled with every passing day; it’s not surprising, then, that what was once a trade show dedicated strictly to the future of gadgetry has become a mandatory appearance for car companies, automotive accessorizers and others whose fortunes and fates are tied to four-wheeled driving machines.
Indeed, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the flood of news gushing out of Las Vegas these days. So to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we’re pulling together a list of all the most notable news announcements in the automotive sphere from CES 2020. We’ll be updating this list periodically, too, so check back later to see what else you need to know.
Mercedes-Benz Teams Up With James Cameron on Avatar-Inspired Concept Car
Mercedes-Benz found inspiration for its new concept car from an unexpected source: James Cameron’s Avatar. The carmaker teamed up with Cameron to create the Vision AVTR, which is designed to reflect not just a more sustainable vehicle of tomorrow — the battery is made of compostable materials — but one that acts and interacts as thought it were a living creature: sit inside, and it begins mirroring your breathing and heartbeat. Sadly, it drives itself, so don’t expect to plug your ponytail into the 12-volt outlet in order to control it the way the Na’vi mind-meld with their steeds.
Hyundai Is Building Flying Air Taxis for Uber
It may not look like what The Jetsons promised, but Hyundai’s electric VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) concept is about as close as we’re likely to get to a flying car anytime soon. The aircraft is being built for Uber as part of the ride-hailing company’s Uber Elevate program, which aims to bring air taxis to the world’s cities. Hyundai says the four-passenger S-A1 is designed to handle trips of around 60 miles, cruising at 180 mph between 1,000 and 2,000 feet off the ground; its batteries can recharge in 5-7 minutes, enabling it to “refuel” between trips. The concept is part of Hyundai’s broader “Smart Mobility Solution” for cities, which, based on the press release, involves self-driving coffee shops shuttling people between helicopter landing pads.
Sony—Yes, That Sony—Unveiled an Electric Car
Of all the automotive-related debuts at CES, none was more surprising than Sony’s, as the technology brand unveiled an entire car. While the Vision-S may seem like a production-ready Tesla competitor at first glance, don’t plan on seeing it on the streets any time soon — it’s much more likely just a tech showcase designed to woo automakers into choosing Sony’s electronics for their cars. But maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to drive it in Gran Turismo…
CES 2020: Concept Cars and Automotive Tech
Toyota to Build an Entire “City of the Future” in Japan
Nobody knows just what the future will look like. But Toyota wants to take a stab at guessing, in the form of what it calls “the Woven City” — a 175-acre community at the foot of Mount Fuji powered by fuel cells and designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. The sustainable town will not just serve as a test bed; it’ll actually be home to 2,000 full-time residents, who will have a chance to interact with experimental technology, such as self-driving cars and AI-equipped robot homes. Expect construction to start next year.
Harman Developing Stereos Specifically for Electric Cars
Here’s something you probably never thought about: how much power your car stereo draws. For electric cars, however, it’s a much bigger concern than it’s traditionally been for gas-powered vehicles — so Harman is working on new stereo and infotainment tech that delivers equivalent sound while weighing less and using less juice.
Segway’s Newest Scooter is a Rolling Chair Straight Out of WALL•E
Segway-Ninebot claims its new rolling chair scooter dubbed the Segway S-Pod was inspired by the gyrospheres of Jurassic World, but let’s face it: it’s way more reminiscent of the hedonistic hoverchaises of the 2008 Pixar movie WALL•E. The self-balancing rolly-chair is controlled with a joystick — unlike regular Segways, which are controlled through than the physically-taxing motion of leaning. The S-Pod is also capable of 24 miles per hour, which seems either terrifying or hilarious, depending on how close you are to it when it’s going that speed.
The Ninebot KickScooter Air T15 Forgoes a Throttle for Your Foot
Electric two-wheeled scooters are generally simple things: a foot stand and handlebar connected by a post, a battery pack, a motor, and a brake and a throttle. Ninebot’s newest model, however, ditches those last ones, instead asking its users to use their foot to accelerate and brake. If you’re thinking, “Wait, doesn’t that just make it a Razer?”, not quite: the KickScooter Air T15 senses your acceleration or deceleration, then matches and holds the speed you choose. Think of it as the Fred Flintstone version of cruise control.
The New Land Rover Defender Has Dual SIM Cards, Can Be Improved Via Over-the-Air Updates
The old Land Rover Defender was all about keeping it old-school. Not so the new 2020 model, which brings to bear not just Land Rover’s best new off-roading tech, but a new dual-SIM infotainment system that uses a separate wireless modem to accept over-the-air updates for the car’s many electronic systems. What that means for you: in theory, easier, more seamless fixes and add-ons for your fresh new Landie.
Mophie’s New Power Bank Can Jump-Start Your Car
Mophie has been saving the bacon of smartphone and laptop users for years by offering portable battery packs capable of bringing dead electronics back to life. Now, the brand is bringing its brand of electric resuscitation to the automotive world with the Powerstation Go. The pack can deliver up to 44,400-mWh of electricity via its included (and adorable) mini jumper cables; it also boasta a Qi wireless charger, two 2.4-amp USB ports and a 115-volt three-prong outlet.
Lamborghini, Rivian to Directly Integrate Amazon Alexa
The Lamborghini Huracan Evo and Rivian R1S and R1T may not have much in common — one’s an incendiary gas-powered supercar, the other two electric-powered off-roaders — but they are set to share something beneath the screens of their infotainment systems: integrated Amazon Alexa. Lamborghini says the system’s direct integration will allow you to use Alexa to do everything from control your smart home appliances to adjust the car’s climate control or interior lights.
Fisker’s Tesla-Fighting Electric SUV Will Start at $37,499
Fisker may not be the biggest name in electric cars, but the brand is seeking to steal a little of Tesla’s thunder with a new compact EV SUV that’s primed to take on the Model Y. The Fisker Ocean, which the company describes as “the world’s most sustainable vehicle,” will offer between 250 and 300 miles of range when it hits the streets in 2022, and land at a base price of just $37,499 — or, after the federal tax credit kicks in, $29,999.
Bosch Reveals the Smart Sun Visor of the Future
The sun visor has traditionally been one of the most low-tech parts of any new car. That could be set to change, thanks to Bosch’s adaptive smart visor concept. The Virtual Visor is made up of a series of hexagonal LCD panels that can transition from transparent to opaque to block unwanted sunlight; a face-monitoring camera tells the system which panels to shift to dark in order to shield the eyes from the sun without blocking the rest of the view. People are already impressed; the system earned Bosch the CES Innovation Award this year.
Amazon Bringing Fire TV to BMW, Fiat Chrysler Vehicles
Using on-board TVs to entertain (or distract) back-seat passengers has been popular ever since the DVD supplanted the VHS tape as the main medium of home video. Amazon, however, wants to add the back seat to the list of domains it holds sway over. the company will be bringing Fire TV to the seatback displays of BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vehicles, allowing riders to stream content so long as they have an Internet connection. It may be a while before the teTh shows up in production cars, Amazon told The Verge, but it’s coming.
Aston Martin’s New Rear-View Mirror Is Actually a 3-Camera Display
Aston Martin’s sports cars are many wonderful things — fast, sexy, fun to drive — but “easy to see out of” isn’t one of them. The company’s new rear view mirror, developed in conjunction with Gentex, seems set to change that. The mirror contains three separate screens that display the views from a trio of stern-facing cameras — one that replicates the regular rear view, and two additional ones that reveal what’s in the car’s blind spots. Plan on seeing it in future production Aston Martin models. (The Valkyrie, perhaps?)
Jeep Announces Plug-In Hybrid Wrangler, Compass and Renegade
Jeep is about to unleash an onslaught of electric and electrified vehicles on the world, and the first wave — announced at CES 2020 — includes the most iconic off-roader to wear the seven-bar grille. The Wrangler, along with the Compass and Renegade, will be gaining a plug-in hybrid powertrain this year, appearing under the 4xe sub-brand. Little is known beyond that so far, but Jeep promises we’ll hear more at the Geneva, New York and Beijing auto shows later this year.
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