In our pick of the UK car-related events coming up in 2016, published last week on The Root, we mentioned the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which happened this month, over the ‘pond’ in Las Vegas. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have figured out that the CES is all about electronics. A show covering all areas of industry and innovation, we’re naturally mainly interested in the amazing car technology that was showcased, with a focus on smaller cars – but we’ll throw in a few heart-racing ones, too.
VOLVO has teamed up with Microsoft to work on wearable voice control technology for cars. Although it won’t initially result in conversational interaction like David Hasselhoff had with KITT in the Knight Rider TV shows, the Microsoft Band 2 remote control watches will let drivers of compatible Volvos turn on heaters and engines, push appointment addresses from their watches to the in-car sat nav systems, and lock the doors in case they forgot. It’s just a shame something equivalent to Tesla’s ‘summon’ command hasn’t been mentioned by Volvo, allowing a driver to instruct their their car to start up by itself and come and meet them at the supermarket pick-up bay, for example.
HARMAN, a leading in-car infotainment manufacturer, has also joined forces with Microsoft in a collaboration that will see Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based software integrated into cars, letting businesspeople listen to email replies on the move as well as organise meetings, input tasks and join conference calls more easily.
HARMAN is also developing an eye and pupil monitoring system which, using a camera pointed at the driver, will determine if they are becoming too tired, distracted or even over-stimulated, impairing their ability to drive safely.
VOLKSWAGEN revealed some amazingly cool technology at CES 2016 in relation to one of its latest concepts, the BUDD-e. A van-like people carrier, it’ll run on pure electricity, be switchable between autonomous and human driving and will incorporate four-wheel drive, a futuristic interior more like a lounge, and a whole array of impressive connectivity, enabling BUDD-e owners to turn their homes’ central heating systems on, boil kettles, switch lights on and off and perform many other tasks all from the vehicle. Gestures will control everything from opening the BUDD-e’s doors to switching between sat nav and audio systems.
BMW is another car manufacturer that is constantly daydreaming about what interiors of the near future may look and work like. At CES 2016, they revealed AirTouch, which will be brilliant for germaphobes like me. Part of the firm’s ‘i Vision Future’, it will allow the massive colour screen on the dashboard to be used without touching it, simply by using hand movements. Working in a ‘3D’ way, AirTouch will make it easy to click buttons, tick boxes and slide volume controls up and down using hand gestures.
As part of BMW’s pursuit of technology, wing mirrors may also become old hat, as showcased by their i8 Spyder concept, which instead of mirrors uses three cameras, positioned on each door and on the rear window, feeding data to a screen situated where the rear-view mirror would normally be. The benefit of computers taking over the job of old-fashioned mirrors is that they can calculate distances and judge hazards better than humans, drivers kept safer as a result.
CHEVROLET proudly showed off the Bolt at CES 2016. It’s an electric car for the masses, costing less than $30,000. This is pretty reasonable considering that it can actually survive driving a fair few miles without running out of juice, its 200-mile range much better than a Nissan LEAF. It’s strange how it won’t be sold in the UK for the time being, but maybe once Chevrolet sees how well it sells in the US, it’ll change its mind.
Leaving some of you with mouths wide open, Carrot’s Consumer Electronics Show 2016 roundup ends with the Faraday Future FFZERO1 concept. Faraday Future is a new American company intent on overtaking current electric vehicle (EV) leaders Tesla by introducing some fantastic cars in the next couple of years. The FFZERO1 only has one seat, produces a whopping maximum of 1,000bhp from electricity, has a top speed in excess of 200mph and can reach 60mph in less than 2 seconds. Styled like something from a Batman film, it has an interior that is just as incredible, with a smartphone embedded into the middle of the steering wheel.