Automotive Highlights from CES 2016

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceMobile Autonomy
The rather broad classification of “consumer electronics” includes everything from games to drones to all levels of cybernetic entertainment. And as high-tech electronics become increasingly integrated into automobiles, the Consumer Electronics Show has turned into a showcase for the latest automotive innovations. At this year’s show in Las Vegas, all-new models premiered from Volkswagen, BMW, Chevrolet and others, along with plenty of new features and the latest in autonomous automobiles. Let’s look at automotive highlights from this year’s CES.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVolkswagen BUDD-e Concept
It’s amusing that Volkswagen chose to showcase its most advanced electric car technology, entertainment and communication systems in a vehicle designed to evoke a 1960s-era Volkswagen microbus. The first vehicle to be built on VW’s all-new Modular Electric Platform, the BUDD-e is expected to offer a range up to 373 miles, with the ability to charge to 80 percent capacity in just 15 minutes. Two electric motors — one at each axle — provide 4-wheel-drive power to the BUDD-e and contribute to a top speed around 112 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVolkswagen BUDD-e Concept
Designers of the BUDD-e employed compact electric motors and a flat battery pack integrated into the floor to create an open interior with loungelike seating. Rear-seat passengers can relax on a couch while watching the integrated 34-inch monitor, and the front passenger seat can swivel while still keeping the passenger belted in.

© Volkswagen AGVolkswagen BUDD-e Concept
The BUDD-e also showcases advanced technologies such as gesture or voice control. Doors open with the wave of a hand in front of the door, or by a voice command by the driver. All systems are connected to the Internet and the home — many of the apps and features on smart phones are integrated into the user interface of the BUDD-e. During the press demonstration, Volkswagen showed a driver responding to visitors at his house ringing the doorbell — he could see them on the center console display, and even had the ability to unlock his house and let them in.

© Volkswagen AGVolkswagen BUDD-e Concept
The BUDD-e even has a mail slot — occupants can have a package redirected to the vehicle; the delivery person (or eventual drone?) simply opens a drawer at the back of the vehicle and deposits the package. All actions are controlled by gesture or voice — buttons and knobs are eliminated. VW says technology in the BUDD-e should be available by the end of the decade — not very far off.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVolkswagen e-Golf Touch
Volkswagen sees a future in which the automobile becomes the ultimate mobile device. To demonstrate, the automaker outfitted the current electric Golf with the latest infotainment and connectivity applications. Although this vehicle is called “Touch,” the new display system operates primarily by gesture or voice control. The heart of the system is a 9.2-inch high-resolution display with a clear glass surface. Content can be displayed in function tiles. For example, one tile can be dedicated to phone communication, another to music entertainment, and a navigation map can be expanded to fill the rest of the screen.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVolkswagen e-Golf Touch
Smartphone apps can also be displayed using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The e-Golf Touch also utilizes the latest in voice control with keyword activation — no need to press a button; the driver simply says, “Hello Volkswagen.” Other unique features of the e-Golf touch include electronic voice amplification to facilitate communication between the driver and passengers. Voice amplification adjusts automatically according to vehicle speed and music volume.

© Volkswagen AGVolkswagen e-Golf Touch
Infotainment personalization has also been improved, allowing drivers to save settings in the cloud. If a driver gets into another compatible VW, personal settings can be loaded into the new car. Smartphone notifications can also be integrated, allowing a driver to have texts or social media notifications read aloud. Drivers are then able to respond, all without touching a button or looking away from the road. VW says most of these features should be available in production cars before the end of this year.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFaraday Future FFZERO1 Concept
Plenty of buzz preceded CES regarding this somewhat mysterious company that has plans to build the next generation of fully-electric vehicles. The company provided an idea of their future with the debut of the FFZERO1 Concept. The futuristic vehicle is a test bed to explore what could be done with an electric race car. The car is not going into production anytime soon — if at all — but Faraday does expect this vehicle to inspire future electric vehicles that, according to a company representative, we should be hearing about soon.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFaraday Future FFZERO1 Concept
The FFZERO1 Concept incorporates what the company calls Variable Platform Architecture, which configures the batteries in modular strings placed in the center of the vehicle. And although the concept is physically on display, the performance specs — while impressive — are still only speculative. Chinese-backed Faraday says this wild-looking vehicle will be powered by four quad-core motors generating more than 1000 horsepower, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph. The vehicle features carbon fiber and composite construction with advanced vehicle dynamic control and torque vectoring. The driver would use virtual head-up display, and the car would be fully connected to the Internet.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceChevrolet Bolt EV
Where the Faraday might be a bit of fantasy, the Bolt EV is real and goes into production later this year. Shown in concept form last year, the production Bolt made its debut at this year’s CES. Chevrolet promises a range of more than 200 miles with a price around $30,000. The 200-mile range exceeds almost every other electric car currently on the market — the one exception being Tesla. However, the Bolt will be less than half the price of the Model S.

© General MotorsChevrolet Bolt EV
In addition to its impressive electric stats, the Bolt is loaded with new innovations. A Bluetooth low-energy system — designed specifically for the Bolt — connects to a smartphone as the driver approaches the car. A large 10.2-inch touchscreen display and rear camera mirror will be available, and a dedicated EV nav system plans a route while taking into account terrain that will affect the battery’s depletion rate. Chevrolet even plans to make efficient driving fun: Bolt owners will be able to compete against each and see who is driving most efficiently.

© Kia Motors AmericaKia DRIVE WISE
At CES the Korean car company announced it will create a new sub-brand called DRIVE WISE. This new brand will be dedicated to all the company’s Advanced Driver Assist Systems, which will include everything from crash-avoidance systems available today to fully autonomous vehicles that Kia expects to have on the road by 2030. Kia also said it will have a production-ready partially-autonomous car by 2020.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceKia DRIVE WISE
To illustrate a new commitment to Advanced Driver Assist Systems, Kia showcased an autonomous Soul at this year’s CES. This test bed features a number of advanced systems including Highway Autonomous Driving, which allows the car to stay in its lane or overtake other vehicles; Urban Autonomous Driving, which can identify the car’s position and navigate through densely-congested city environments; and Preceding Vehicle Following, which is an enhanced lane-keeping system that allows the car to calculate its own path relative to the one in front of it if road markings are indecipherable due to poor conditions or road layout.

© BMW AGBMW Helmet with Head-up Display
BMW introduced a head-up display for automobiles more than ten years ago, and at this year’s CES the German company showcased a head-up display for motorcycle riders. Pertinent information appears on a small glass display in front of the driver’s right eye, allowing the rider to keep eyes on the road — particularly important on a motorcycle.

© BMW AGBMW Helmet with Head-up Display
A programmable display lets the rider choose which information is shown, including traffic alerts, navigation routing or impending hazards. A rearview camera can also create a digital rearview mirror. The head-up display is still a prototype, but it does make a lot of sense.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBMW i Vision Future Interaction
This BMW concept debuted at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, but as cool as this i8 Spyder-based concept looks it’s the electronics inside that are the big news. It employs a head-up display, an instrument cluster with three-dimensional display, and a 21-inch panoramic display that extends across most of the front passenger zone. Countless bits of information can be presented on this very large screen, and the content changes if the vehicle is being operated autonomously.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBMW i Vision Future Interaction
BMW’s future virtually eliminates buttons. Actions will be accomplished via touchscreen, voice control or the latest innovation — gesture control. Sensors installed around the dashboard respond to hand movements. A movement of the hand can bring something into focus on the display, with the selected icon visually highlighted. The icon is activated with a forward motion of the hand. For example, if a phone call comes in, the driver can point at the screen to accept the call, or use a waving motion to ignore the call.

© RinspeedRinspeed Etos Concept
Swiss customizer Rinspeed has been responsible for some innovative, unusual concepts over the years — a favorite was the sQuba, a Lotus Esprit convertible for driving underwater while wearing scuba gear. At this year’s CES, Rinspeed keeps to the current playbook with a hybrid sports car — based on the BMW i8 — that can be driven autonomously. When in autonomous mode, the steering wheel retracts out of sight, providing a roomy interior for reading or enjoying multimedia via two 21.5-inch ultra HD widescreen curved displays.

© RinspeedRinspeed Etos Concept
The Etos stands out from the crowd on its own, and captures even more attention with its onboard DJI drone complete with landing platform on the rear decklid. Rinspeed says not only would the drone shoot selfies of you in your car, you could send the drone to pick up purchases on your drive home. Even as drones become more pervasive throughout our culture, don’t look for a drone landing pad on your car anytime soon.

© Bentley MotorsBentley “Monster by Mulliner”
Bentley paid a visit to CES this year, teaming up with the high-performance audio manufacturer Monster to create the “Monster by Mulliner.” (Mulliner is Bentley’s bespoke coachbuilding division, responsible for unique Bentley models.) This Monster is the Continental GT V8 S — which boasts 528 horsepower — but the real power is in this special car’s audio system. A total of 16 speakers deliver 3,400 watts of Pure Monster Sound.

© Bentley MotorsBentley “Monster by Mulliner”
Even if you don’t hear it coming, the Monster by Mulliner will certainly garner attention via its Onyx paint with Hotspur accents, red brake calipers, gloss black wheels and a unique body kit. Monster CEO Noel Lee noted that “Monster is proud to collaborate with Bentley on bringing the sound and look of a Monster ride to those who want something bold and different. With our Pure Monster Sound system, the drive will be truly incredible and brings a new level of excitement to the driving experience.”

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDodge Charger Pursuit
In addition to lights and sirens, future Dodge Charger police cars will be getting a unique feature: a 12.1-inch touchscreen display that runs the latest version of Uconnect. Designed exclusively for law-enforcement officers, the large high-res display provides a 1024×768 view of Uconnect radio and vehicle controls, and also provides access to the officer’s computer via a menu bar at the top. No word on whether this screen upgrade will be available to the general public. Clearly the screen fits nicely within the center console of the Dodge Charger, so we can logically assume this will eventually be an available feature.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFord Autonomous Vehicles
At CES Ford announced it will be increasing its fleet of autonomous vehicles currently being tested on roads in California, Arizona and Michigan. Twenty Fusion Hybrids will be added this year, utilizing Veoldyne’s newest LiDAR sensors that cover a range of 200 meters, which makes them capable of handling numerous driving scenarios. “Using the most advanced technology and expanding our test fleet are clear signs of our commitment to make autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president of global product development and CTO. “With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter,” Nair noted.

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