Every year a new reality emerges at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and 2016 was no exception. It was a particularly banner year for the future of mobility. Electric vehicles went mass market. Rear-view mirrors became obsolete. And self-driving cars took another big step toward the here and now. In fact, there were more new transportation concepts and innovative automotive technologies on display than ever before. Here are but a few of the most notable.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Capable and affordable, the handsome Bolt is an electric car for the masses, says Chevrolet. Compared with the Nissan Leaf, the Bolt EV rolls twice as far (200 miles) on a charge, offers more interior space and packs more tech for approximately the same price (about $30,000 in the US, after a $7,500 Federal tax credit). We’ll see how it compares with Tesla’s Model 3, which is scheduled to be unveiled this spring. Until then, the Bolt sets a new benchmark for EVs.
Faraday Future FFZERO1
While the Bolt is the practical man’s electric vehicle, the FFZERO1 is for the extremist. This slick-looking single-seat racer was put together in only three months by FF's Head of Design Richard Kim and his team to serve as an example of what can built atop the fledgling automaker’s all-new scalable vehicle architecture. Though Kim says the FFZERO1 will not be Faraday’s first production car, he does admit that its sci-fi features “hint at the look of coming production models."
Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept
Hippies rejoice: VW has electrified your beloved Microbus and, in the process, provided the rest of us with a glimpse into the future of the manufacturer's electrification program. Though Volkswagen didn't say much about the BUDD-e’s propulsion system, it will be configured like the Tesla Model S, with electric motors at the front and rear axles and a battery pack in between. The range on a full charge is 233 miles and top speed is a swift 93mph. While the Microbus physique was meant to pull on the heartstrings of tech-impaired empty nesters, the BUDD-e boasts the latest bells and whistles. For example, all systems can be controlled through touchscreens, voice commands or gestures, from turning on the heat to opening the side doors.
Kia Drive Wise Autonomous Cars
Kia jumped into the driverless-car fray by unveiling its new line of Drive Wise autonomous driving technologies. The systems, which include urban and highway modes, use a combination of radar, camera, GPS and ultrasonic sensors to negotiate lane-changing and overtaking on highways or to navigate busy city environments without input from the driver. Also on display was the I-Cockpit concept, which previewed the automaker’s next-generation human-machine interface technologies, including gesture control and a touchpad that automatically recognizes driver preferences based on a fingerprint swipe. Kia hopes to bring partially autonomous vehicles to market by 2020 and completely driver-less cars by 2030.
EHang 184 Personal Driving Vehicle
The real must-have gadget from CES, the EHang 184 is part drone, part personal helicopter. This car-sized electric quadcopter can carry a single occupant up to 10 miles with almost no guidance. The passenger inputs the destination via a mobile app, and the 184 autonomously handles the rest. According to the company, it can fly for about 23 minutes on a full charge, at speeds up to 62mph. Sadly, it's not legal in the US.
BMW AirTouch 3D
The human-machine interface was a hot topic in Sin City this year, as many automakers and automotive systems suppliers showed off gesture-control and eye-tracking technologies designed to reduce driver distraction. BMW's second-generation gesture control system, AirTouch 3D, in the iVision Future Interaction concept car, was one of the more impressive technologies being developed. With it, you can control the car's in-dash screen just like a touchscreen without ever actually touching it.
BMW Motorrad Vision Head-Up Display
Although BMW's four-wheeled innovations took centre stage at CES, the company's motorcycle division had some clever kit at the show, as well, including a helmet with a built-in heads-up display. Similar to the Skully AR-1, BMW's Vision helmet places a transparent display over the rider's right eye, onto which is projected a host of basic data, including speed, fuel level, navigation and road-hazard alerts. The display can also serve as a closed-circuit rear-view feed, eliminating the need to glance at the side mirror. The company says the helmet should be production ready within a few years.
With Amazon connection, Ford's Sync comes home
Another emerging trend at this year’s CES involved enhancing the communication between your car and home. One of the more accessible solutions is the result of a collaboration between Ford and Amazon. It involves linking Ford’s Sync infotainment system with the online retail giant's Echo smart home hub. Using voice commands, Sync users can, say, open a garage door, access their home’s thermostat or turn on an outside light from miles away. Vice versa, through Amazon's Alexa digital assistant, users will be able to stop, start, lock, unlock and check their vehicle's fuel range from the comfort of home.
Gracenote Dynamic EQ
Good sound quality is sorely underrated. And Gracenote knows it. That’s why the company has created a new layer of technology, an algorithm, to analyze every song you play, and then automatically adjust your car stereo's equalizer settings to optimize the aural quality of the playback. By customizing EQ settings down to the track level every song sounds like the artist meant it to be heard.
Self-driving Mercedes E-Class
No, Mercedes-Benz did not unveil an autonomous E-Class. But it did announce that the next-gen E, which is scheduled to be unveiled this week at the Detroit Auto Show, is now licensed to drive itself on roads in Nevada. Expected to go on sale later this year as a 2017 model, the all-new E is rumored to feature one of the most comprehensive autonomous feature sets of any production vehicle. it is the first production car to be granted one of these Nevada licenses.
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