CES 2017: Top gear trends grab the headlines at annual electronics gala

Smart cars, self-driving cars and new in-car experiences will define the motoring aspect of the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, in Las Vegas this year


BMW is expected to drive in a new in-car control concept called HoloActive Touch.
BMW is expected to drive in a new in-car control concept called HoloActive Touch.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017, which officially kicks off in Las Vegas on Thursday, could very well be confused as the Cars Electronics Show. Though it was essentially an annual gadget and consumer electronics show, carmakers with their smart technology and platforms have hijacked the floor. Not that we are complaining, because a lot of good motoring stuff is lined up for CES 2017.

Faraday Future: Starting trouble?

It is expected that secretive start-up Faraday Future (FF) will unveil a new electric car at CES 2017. Last year, the California-based electric car firm had unveiled FFZERO1 car, powered by 4 quad-core motors delivering up to 1,000 horsepower under the hood, a 0-60 sprint time under three seconds, and a theoretical top speed over 200 miles per hour. This time around, things seem to be stumbling a bit—two senior executives apparently left FF towards the end of December. Could this mean that the new car, expected to be a premium crossover on the lines of the Tesla Model X, will not be ready in time for Las Vegas? We have already seen videos and photos of the camouflaged car running road tests and drag-races against a Tesla, Ferrari and Bentley. Only time will tell, but we sure are keeping our eyes peeled for this one.

Ford: Driving without actually driving?

Ford Motor Co. is expected to debut the next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous car, which uses Ford’s current autonomous vehicle platform, but has improved the processing power for the algorithms to work and an updated virtual driver system. A redesigned LiDAR sensor package means that it is now expected to have a better field of vision, and the carmaker can now only use two sensors as opposed to the four in their autonomous vehicles so far. Mark Fields, chief executive officer of Ford Motors, is expected to talk about the Smart Mobility Plan, which Ford has focussed on globally for a while now—focus will be around better connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles.

BMW: Redefining the touch?

Last year, BMW focused on redoing the concept of outdoor rear view mirrors. This time around, the German carmaker is expected to drive in a new in-car control concept called HoloActive Touch. It involves a free-floating display that can be operated by finger gestures, without having to touch the display or the interface. It works a lot like a traditional Head-Up Display module for cars, with the image of a display being generated by reflections. A camera detects the driver’s hand movements, and registers the position of his fingertips. As soon as a fingertip makes contact with a virtual control zone, the relevant function is activated.

Continental: Biometrics for your car?

It is expected that Continental will showcase a biometric system for cars, which will make keyless entry and start system dependent on user verification—fingerprints, facial detection and retina scans. Fingerprint scanning, in particular, has a security angle to it, and all biometric authentication can also be used to personalize the vehicle preferences according to each individual driver. We will also hear about partnerships with carmakers, and if any cars will be adding this feature as a standard, over the next few months.

Hyundai: Futuristic but conventional?

The Korean automaker is expected to show off the self-driving version of its new Ioniq sedan. The thing about this vehicle is that the sensors that drive the autonomous features are hidden, making this look like a regular car at first sight. Also, the updates for BlueLink technology will support Google Assistant, allowing voice controls to execute certain functions for the car, and the infotainment system.

Toyota: Beautifying things?

While Japanese car maker Toyota’s plans for CES are still shrouded in secrecy, one thing is clear—the company will unveil a new in-car user experience interface for its cars. Could it be a new car? Or will it be something added to existing vehicles? All we have right now is Toyota’s official statement, which states “the critical importance of UX in the development of highly automated vehicles and robots”.

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