BELLS & WHISTLES
Written by Andre James
Serving as the first major car show of the calendar year, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas also provides a barometer for both the progress of electric vehicles and how close we are to fully autonomous vehicles. Automotive companies are increasingly utilizing the CES to showcase concept cars of the future along with more ready-for-market leading-edge technology. We rounded up a few notable launches and lurches toward a future where a driver (and in some cases the road itself) are optional.
Audi’s booth at the CES was designed around the motto "from driving experience to digital driving adventure,” and placed the spotlight of two technologies for the in-car entertainment of the future. In the “Audi Experience Ride,” backseat passengers can experience movies,
video games, and interactive content even more realistically using virtual reality glasses. The “Audi Immersive In-Car Entertainment” project takes up the action in movie scenes and translates it into real vehicle movements. In order to establish this new form of entertainment on the market as quickly and comprehensively as possible, a subsidiary of Audi, Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, has co-founded a startup named holoride GmbH, in which it holds a minority interest. Also available for ogling was Audi’s four-door Aicon, a sleek autonomous vehicle designed for fully electric operation, and engineered to cover distances up to 500 miles on a single battery charge.
Resembling a drone with seating for four, the full-scale Bell Nexus air taxi concept unveiled at CES aims to begin test flights in early 2023. The vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle will be powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system, with six 8-foot tilting ducted fans that enable Nexus to go from vertical liftoff to horizontal flight.
The focal point of the BMW’s CES stand was Vision iNEXT, and the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which constitutes the central element for interaction between the driver, their vehicle, and their digital world. The BMW Vision iNEXT formed the optical highlight of the exhibition stand, which also showcased the interior design principle “My Favorite Space” with harmonious, natural surfaces and technology that is kept discreetly out of sight and only becomes visible and operable when required by the driver or passengers.
Stealing headlines outside the show floor was BMW Motorrad’s self-riding BMW R 1200 GS motorbike, which wowed onlookers as it steered itself around the convention center’s parking lot without falling over. Development of this test vehicle, with its comprehensive understanding of ideal lines and perfect cornering, correct braking point, and traction-optimized acceleration, can help the driver constantly improve their skills.
BWM Group subsidiary Designworks unveiled a camper concept in partnership with The North Face to showcase a new fabric from The North Face called FUTURELIGHT, which uses nanospinning technology to create the world’s most advanced, breathable, waterproof material.
The Chinese electric car startup previewed the digital cockpit of the production version of its M-Byte SUV. BYTON’s 48-inch, curved Shared Experience Display (SED) remains the world’s largest in-car display for a production automobile. The user can interact with the SED via a seven-inch Driver Tablet positioned at the center of the steering wheel or an eight-inch Touch Pad between the driver and front passenger seats. The production version of the BYTON M-Byte is slated to debut in mid-2019, with mass production starting at the end of the year.
The first Mercedes-Benz vehicle from the EQ brand—the EQC crossover SUV— celebrated its U.S. premiere. A pair of electric motors at the front and rear axles provides a combined output of 402 horsepower. The watercooled onboard charger is suited for AC charging at home or at public charging stations. The MBUX Interior Assistant makes various comfort and functionality tools simpler and more intuitive.
Making its first North American appearance, the MercedesBenz Vision URBANETIC concept is a driverless vehicle aimed at ride-hailing and delivery fleets. Switchable bodies on the autonomous driving platform can accommodate up to 12 passengers; in cargo configuration it is able to transport items on ten 40-by-48-inch pallets.
The all-new Nissan LEAF NISMO RC, an electric race car with more than double the maximum power and torque output of its predecessor, made its North American debut at Nissan's CES display. Two electric motors at opposite ends of the chassis, a new all-wheel-drive system, and a full carbon-fiber racing monocoque structure creates an optimal power-to-weight ratio with an impressive performance of zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.
The Toyota Research Institute introduced the TRI-P4 automated driving test vehicle, which is based on the fifth-generation Lexus LS flagship sedan. In a press release, Toyota stated that the P4 is a much smarter research vehicle than its predecessor, thanks to greater computing power, allowing its systems to operate more machine learning algorithms in parallel for faster learning. All computing system power is drawn from the vehicle’s hybrid battery, with the 12v battery now serving only as a backup.