2015 Consumer Electronics Show Recap
Despite being named in theory after non-vehicular technology, the 2015 edition of the Computer Electronics Show (CES) was pretty packed with high-tech means of transportation, with just about many major car manufacturers jumping on the occasion of unveiling a bespoke concept car for the event in Las Vegas. The common theme among most vehicles presented was "connectivity" and/or "autonomous driving, " and for some reason it seems that German carmakers set their sights on stealing most of the accolades.
Each and every concept car presented at CES 2015 tried in the most elaborate ways to provide consumers with a peek at the world of transportation in the near future and beyond, with some of the gizmos and features sported by a couple of cars even wearing the "production ready" tag. By far the biggest surprises came from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, with each of them presenting their own interpretation of the so-called "car of the future."
The luxury trio of premium carmakers wasn’t the only one to infuse CES 2015 with cars that sport extra connectivity features or self-driving options, which is why we decided to put together a short list featuring the most important cars and automotive technologies presented at the show in Las Vegas. Some are simply rehashed variants of existing vehicles, while others are futuristic thingamajigs that we will only see on the roads in the third decade or so of the new millennium. Either way, prepare for a concentrated dose of innovative means of transportation and automotive technology.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 CES.
Despite the fact that in terms of exterior and interior design it is pretty much identical to the original Prologue Concept unveiled at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, Audi’s bespoke concept for CES 2015 is a standalone model when it comes to futuristic but also near-production technology features. Officially called the Prologue Piloted Driving Concept, the model is augmented via a small and disc-shaped electric motor, a small lithium-ion battery and a host of sensors that make it capable of autonomous driving.
Its main source of propulsion is a more powerful variant of the good ol’ 4.0 TFSI V-8, which in this incarnation is capable of 597 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the added oomph from the the electric motor, the Prologue Piloted Driving Concept’s powertrain delivers a monstrous 677 horsepower and 701 pound-feet of torque, or enough to launch the car from 0 to 62 mph in just 3.5 seconds, while also giving it a combined fuel economy of 29.8 mpg. The real news is represented by a laser scanner, several video cameras and a host of ultrasound sensors mounted all around the car, together giving it the posibillity of autonomous driving.
Even though the M4 Concept Iconic Lights is technically identical to the production variant of the model, its snazzy headlights and taillights are the features which make it truly stand out. The concept is equipped with a new version of the coveted BMW Laserlight technology, which now comes with improved attributes. The main novelty resides in the Selective beam function, which in essence should help oncoming drivers not get blinded by the laser-powered headlights even if they are working in high-beam mode. On top of looking simply bad-ass, the new Laserlight headlamps can also work together with the Night Vision system to warn the driver of people or animals crossing the path of the car or with the sat-nav system to illuminate upcoming corners even before the wheel are turned.
That is not all though, as the M4 Concept Iconic Lights also features a fantastic-looking set of taillights which feature OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) technology. Apart from providing some much-needed eye-candy by the way they look, the concept’s rear light clusters are also safer thanks to to the 3D effect that can be configured to show different shapes inside the taillights. We shouldn’t wait too long for these lighting technologies to appear in an upcoming BMW model, as both of them are production-ready.
On the outside, the Golf R Touch concept is pretty much a standard Golf R with the exception of its rather interesting paint scheme. The front half of the car is painted red, while the rear puts a frozen matte-grey to good use, making bystanders believe that they are looking at two different car after it passes them. It is the interior where the model gets to actually use its "concept car" badge, as the entire center console has been replaced with an array of touch screens not unlike the Tesla Model S.
The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is represented by a 12.3-inch active info display just like some versions of the 2015 Audi TT or the 2015 Volkswagen Passat, while two other screens replace all the knobs and buttons on the center console. A main, 12.3-inch screen is situated almost at eye level, while a smaller, 8-inch display, with haptic feedback replaces the climate control unit. On top of it, the driver can control the two center console screen by touch or via hand gestures thanks to a roof-mounted 3d camera that can recognize hand movement, like a Playstation Move or an X-Box Kinect.
Not wanting to be surpassed by Audi’s 550-mile, semi-autonomous drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz actually prepared a bespoke concept car for CES 2015 in the shape of the F 015 Luxury in Motion. If you look past the egg-shaped exterior, whose overall design may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the fully-autonomous concept car tries to offer a glimpse of how a luxury car from 2013 may end up offering in terms of interior luxury and technology features. Powered by two electric motors that take their power either from a large Lithium-Ion battery pack or from an on-board fuel-cell system that runs on hydrogen, the F 015 Luxury in Motion can offer an emission-free range of about 684 miles.
Its green powertrain and futuristic exterior/interior aren’t the concept’s main features though, as Mercedes-Benz mainly wants it to express how a fully-autonomous luxury vehicle could end up offering in the not-so-nearby future. For example, the F 015 Luxury in Motion is also revolutionizing the way its passengers and outside traffic can connect, uniting their forces in creating safer transportation for everyone involved, so it’s no wonder it was presented at CES.
Instead of going through all the trouble of creating a custom concept car for CES 2015, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) decided to preview an all-new and rather useful smartphone app for its Uconnect system. Called Uconnect Access, the new app offers an redesigned look, feel and functionality, while also introducing four services that seem rather similar in nature to what Mercedes-Benz offers with its "Mercedes Me" service. Scheduled for launch during the first half of 2015 for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars that are equipped with either the 8.4A or 8.4AN Uconnect infotainment systems, the new app should provide a much better way of connecting the drivers with their vehicles.
A nifty "Vehicle Finder" option is included for those with forgetful inclinations, letting them see the location of their cars via map or satellite views, even making the car sound its horn to help them locate it acoustically, like a bat. Just as helpful, the "Send Destination to Vehicle" option helps users search for a location on the smartphone and then simply send it to the car’s sat-nav system. Last, but not least, the new Uconnect Access app has two other new features which can inform drivers about their cars’ health, safety and performance status, with the details being sent into a personal email account.
Not to get passed by Tesla and its increasing Supercharger Station network, BMW came at CES 2015 with a pretty cool way of charging your electric or plug-in hybrid Bimmer at home. Called BMW i Home Charging Services, the new solution is actually based on the BMW i Wallbox Pro system that the Bavarian carmaker unveiled back in 2014. In short, owners of the BMW i3 or i8 will be able to charge their cars’ battery packs at home without putting so much strain on the grid.
This is thanks to both a solar-powered carport that can produce enough electricity for around 20,000 miles of driving every year or to only charging the vehicle at the cheapest off-peak rates if the owner doesn’t use solar power, which in the United States should result in savings of up to $800 a year. In places with enough sunshine, this technology could in theory give BMW i3 and i8 owners free or almost free mileage for their vehicles.
While the feat itself was more of a marketing ploy to show off Audi’s "autonomous driving" technology in the real world, most of the features present on the A7 Piloted Driving Concept are pretty much production-ready according to the Ingolstadt car manufacturer. In short, the prototype drove mainly by itself between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the city which hosts CES every year, with the humans on board only taking control of the wheel in city traffic.
Nicknamed "Jack" by the Audi development team in charge of the project, the semi-autonomous A7 is equipped with a 3d camera and a host of mid-range radar sensors and laser scanners. Thanks to them, the vehicle can keep track of almost anything that happens outside the car during traffic and can act accordingly. This way, it can adapt its speed to surrounding vehicles on the highway and can even initiate lane changes if the situation requires it.
It seems that Volkswagen wasn’t the only German carmaker to introduce gesture controls for its vehicle infotainment screens, as BMW came with a similar technology. After revolutionizing the way drivers interact with the vehicle’s main functions with the iDrive controller knob back in 2001, the Bavarian car manufacturer intends to take it up a notch with both in-car gesture controls and a new touchscreen interface. By far the most interesting piece of kit of the two technologies unveiled at CES 2015, the iDrive Controller with touchscreen and gesture control should make all BMW drivers look like orchestra conductors while driving their cars. Using either the touchscreen or simply gesturing with the hand, whose movement is interpreted by a 3D camera mounted on the roof, they can control almost all of the vehicle’s functions.
Another technology that should render all buttons and knobs useless is the BMW Touch Command, which is essentially a Samsung tablet that is connected via Wi-Fi to the vehicle and serves as a controller for the infotainment system. Using the on-board tablet, any passenger can therefore control the audio-video system and even the climate control or the seat functions present in the car.