Autonomy, the lounge act – by Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz unveiled its F 015 Luxury in Motion research car, a machine that could make even the happiest of Maybach owners a bit green. The serene sedan is packaged as the quintessential self-driving car, where you and three guests dip into caviar while autonomous Jeeves makes all the driving decisions of consequence. The F 015 contains swiveling front chairs, so front and rear passengers can face one other; barn-style doors to ease access; and motion-gesture monitors aplenty. Under the skin lies a hybrid-electric fuel-cell powertrain allowing a claimed 1,100km (684 miles) of zero-emissions cruising. The F 015 hints at a time when drivers are removed from the equation, and vehicles become what Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Mercedes’ parent, Daimler, calls a "mobile living space".
Harman gets personal
The audio-component designer debuted a personalised sound system for each passenger in a vehicle, called the Independent Sound Zones, or ISZ. The system harnesses the car's original speakers, along with additional speakers in the headrests and headliner, to deliver only the audio each passenger desires. With ISZ, a driver could take a hands-free call while other passengers continued listening to music, or hear navigation cues while everyone else follows a movie. Though the technology is already in demo form, it may take years for it to appear in cars, owing to the lengthy implementation processes required, a Harman spokesman told CNET.
Audi arrives at CES in style – and without a driver
No stranger to autonomous mobility, Audi made a grand entrance to CES by piloting an A7 prototype on a 550-mile journey from San Francisco to Las Vegas – nearly without human intervention. Audi's A7 was piloted by the company's so-called Zfas circuit board, which debuted at last year's CES. The Zfas system works in tandem with ultrasonic sensors, radar and cameras to capture driving data. It then connects to the carmaker's machine-learning cloud system and uses artificial intelligence to make decisions while the car gets down the road. Audi says the tech, which shows frightful levels of market-readiness, expands its knowledge the more it is used. So don't get on its bad side.
BMW invites hand gestures behind the wheel (not that one)
The German carmaker took a few steps at CES to simplify its iDrive infotainment system, showing a touch-screen version that also bundles contactless gesture controls. Using a 3D sensor in the roof, BMW's concept system detects the amount of fingers being held up or if a hand is swiping, rotating or making a tapping motion. The new tech allows the driver and front passenger to perform simple tasks such as adjusting audio volume or accepting incoming calls. No word yet on how the infotainment system parses hand gestures proffered to surrounding traffic.
Head-scratching tech for two-wheelers
In keeping with its reputation for safety innovation, Volvo showed off a new cycling helmet that works with the company's City Safety system to improve road safety. It works by sharing real-time cyclist information from motion-tracking apps to Volvo cars. The data is used to warn drivers if a cyclist is in a blind sport –and can even detect them at night. The system tracks the trajectory and speed of both the car and cyclist and uses head-up display alerts for the driver and a warning light on the helmet for the cyclist. In the most serious instances, the Volvo would automatically apply the brakes if a crash is imminent. No production plans for the helmet were announced.
Toyota splits open its hydrogen molecules
While Mercedes' radical F 015 concept garnered the most flash photography, it was Toyota’s relatively un-flashy announcement that it would open up its hydrogen fuel-cell patents that set blogger fingers’ typing. The carmaker will make 5,680 patents available to potential rivals, royalty-free, through 2020, in an effort to speed adoption of the technology. Toyota's launching the Mirai (pictured), its first consumer hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, later in 2015. The Japanese automaker also called on other carmakers to open their hydrogen fuel-cell patents in turn.
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