Kwik Fit | Friday 15th January 2016 10:00am
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has long been an annual staple on the calendar of any budding tech follower. But now more and more automotive companies are getting in on the act, using the show as the platform to announce new car concepts and in-car gadgets that may one day integrate into our daily lives.
Here are our top six unveilings from CES 2016 giving us a peak into what may one day become the future of driving.
Not surprisingly, electric vehicles were a running theme at this year’s show with several vehicle manufacturers unveiling new concepts and progress updates on previously announced EVs. Volkswagen introduced us to the BUDD-e – the first electric-powered minivan, while Chevrolet announced that its affordable electric vehicle with a 200-mile range, the Bolt, would be available to buy this year, well, in the US at least. But it was upstart Faraday Future, which only formed 18 months ago, that potentially grabbed the most headlines in the sector with the unveiling of its FFZERO1 (pictured above). Sporting futuristic curves, many have likened the high-performance electric concept car to the Batmobile but with an electric power output of 1,000 horsepower and a top speed of over 200 mph, the FFZERO1 boasts more than just menacing looks. While it’s unlikely that Faraday Future will ever bring the FFZERO1 to market, the launch showed everyone how the company hopes to one day compete with the more familiar household names in the automotive industry.
Smart Home Integration
Controlling your home from your phone was a big trend in 2015, using a mobile or tablet to control heating, lighting and other smart devices in the owner’s absence. Now Ford is bringing this technology to your car. At CES the company demonstrated how its cars would soon be able to link with smart home platforms like Wink to carry out actions like turning the heating up or opening the garage door in anticipation of your return home. On the flipside you’ll be able to use a smartphone app while inside your warm cozy house to check if the car is locked or switch on the engine on a cold morning to warm the car up.
While many were announcing new electric concept cars at this year’s CES, Toyota has placed its eggs in a different basket with the unveiling of a new hydrogen powered concept car. Show-goers were given a first look at what the Japanese car giant believes will be the future of mobility, introducing the world to the FCV Plus which uses hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity from hydrogen stored outside of the vehicle, the only by-product of which is water making it a much more environmentally friendly fuel source than petrol and diesel. But that's not the best bit; in essence the FCV Plus is a generator on wheels that boasts additional applications including powering the owner’s home!
Dashboards covered in buttons to control every aspect of driver and passenger comfort look like they could soon be a thing of the past as both Volkswagen and BMW revealed their latest gesture-controlled infotainment systems at the show. BMW’s Air Touch does away with buttons in favour of clever gesture-sensing technology that lets the driver or passenger choose settings with a simple swipe or wave in the air without actually touching the LCD console. While such gesture controls could be seen to take driver concentration away from the road (not to mention making them look a bit silly to other road users), the technology is actually being perfected for use in the company’s future driver-less cars. Meanwhile Volkswagen’s e-Golf Touch improves on existing voice recognition technology and allows drivers to interact with the vehicle in a more natural, conversational manner and can be activated by saying "Hello Volkswagen".
Intelligent Car Windows
Continental has been a regular at CES for several years now and 2016 was no different. This year the company showed of its Intelligent Glass Control concept which can darken car windows at the touch of a button to reduce sun glare. The technology uses a special film that is inserted into the glass which changes transparency when an electric current is passed through it. Utilising Intelligent Glass Control in car windows will not only improve road visibility but will also make the vehicle more energy efficient. In summer the film keeps heat out of the vehicle and significantly reduces the interior temperature, reducing the need to use the air-conditioning system which produces additional CO2. Continental believes that CO2 emissions are reduced by a good four grams per kilometre as a result. This was the first time intelligent glass was seen used in a windscreen and Continental have some hurdles to overcome to bring the product to market. For legal reasons, it can only be used in the sun visor portion of the glass currently. However, Continental says it is not a question of ‘if’ intelligent glass is coming but ‘when’.
Autonomous driving was always going to feature in a big way at this year’s show with many manufacturers providing updates on their self-drive projects. Toyota revealed at the show that it had hired the head of Google’s robotics division, James Kuffner, to work on its own self driving car research and showed off its Mobility Teammate Concept in which driver and car work together to achieve a common purpose. It’s not totally autonomous but is equipped for automated motorway driving such as monitoring traffic conditions, merging onto or exiting the road, maintaining or changing lanes and keeping a set distance from other traffic. Toyota hopes that the Mobility Teammate Concept will be road-ready in just five years. Elsewhere, Kia was the latest manufacturer to throw its hat in the autonomous driving ring with its Drive Wise concept. Similar to Toyota, Drive Wise sees vehicle and owner working together in unison and has clever features such as bringing the vehicle to a controlled stop if the driver’s eyes stray from the road for too long. Kia hopes to bring an entirely autonomous vehicle to market by 2030.
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