The Consumer Entertainment Show (CES), held every January in Las Vegas, is the world’s meeting place for makers of the very latest in widescreen TVs, internet connected fridges, portable gadgets and the cutting edge in automotive technology. This year’s show saw major announcements from the world’s auto makers and the smartphone giants who want their operating systems in your car.
Among the car makers, Ford announced its Smart Mobility plan, with a test site planned for London. The plan is a long-term initiative to help drivers deal with busier roads and more cars on them. It plans to use mobile technology, big data, self-driving vehicles and an improved driver experience to improve all aspects of owning and using a car.
Meanwhile Mercedes showed off the F 015, a luxury self-driving concept car. It weighs around 40% less than conventional cars due to the use of modern materials and a high-strength shell. The passengers can sit normally, or turn the front seats to face the rear passengers. Blue lights on the rear indicate if the car is being driven manually or automatically, and it is powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
Outside the show floor, Audi’s new self-driving A7 managed to make it from San Francisco to Vegas without incident, while BMW’s i3 was demonstrating its auto-parking and accident avoiding technology to the audience. For those not looking for a new car, but still want the technology, the likes of Delphi will soon be offering after-market self-driving systems that can convert your current car into one packed with sensors and technology to safely get you from A to B, once the laws allow it.
Among the technology makers, Nvidia (a company usually known for its graphics processors for PCs and smartphones) wowed the show with a new suite of in-car technology, called Drive for new models. Drive PX can use cameras, lasers and radar to create a situational picture of the car’s environment and navigate it safely. Drive CX users a powerful in-car display to provide state-of-the-art navigation, digital displays and other information. Expect Nvidia to aggressively pursue makers to get these products on the market, replacing traditional navigation and dashboard technology.
Naturally, Apple and Android are major players when it comes to in-car technology thanks to their huge smartphone user base. The good news is more makers and taking an agnostic approach and supporting all devices. Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto will be added to Volkswagen cars in late 2015, catching them up with the pack.