CES 2018 firmly cemented this event as a premiere showcase for automotive tech. Here are the cars that caught our eye during the show.
LAS VEGAS—Automotive tech was a hot ticket during this year’s CES. From new cars to augmented reality dashboards powered by artificial intelligence, it was all on display and we managed to get our grubby hands on most of it. Overall, the three most important trends in car tech at CES were autonomous driving, cars that connect to pretty much everything, and super-smart new dashboard and infotainment centers.
The Self-Driving Ride
Autonomous vehicles were perhaps the loudest trend at automotive CES. Several makers, including Aptiv, Ford, Toyota, and more had prototype versions of autonomous vehicles on display or even available for demo rides in controlled environments. Nissan had its intelligent driver assist technology up and running in the 2018 Leafand was providing test drives out to see the beauty of Red Rock Canyon and its indigenous rattle snake population.
Many other makers announced autonomous vehicle projects either from their own R&D departments or in conjunction with third-party vehicle operating system makers, like Intel’s Mobileye and Nvidia; these include BMW, Fiat-Chrysler, Honda, NIO, and SAIC among at least 10 others.
Overall, while none of the implementations the PCMag crew saw or test drove were 100 percent flawless, we’re still hugely impressed by how far autonomous vehicles have come since just last year’s show. Innovative work on intelligent sensors is being combined with some real out-of-the-car thinking on dashboards and user interface design. The blocker, however, remains mobile bandwidth.
Autonomous cars are by definition connected cars and the amount of data that needs to be moving between an autonomous car and its immediate environment, its maker’s data and control centers, as well as its driver’s control and infotainment resources is, in a word, huge.
Not only that, many of these data transfers need to happen with little or no latency, something that’s beyond today’s 4G LTE networks. Car makers are pinning their hopes to future 5G mobile networks as well as proprietary wireless solutions that have yet to see the light of day.
However, as cool as all these cars are, the overall message is clear: Without a very fast, near-zero latency mobile data network to connect them to the world, autonomous and connected cars will remain at the concept stage.
The Ultra-Connected Car
Very much related to the autonomous vehicle trend is the connected car. Sure, we’ve been seeing our rides get more and more connected and even dependent on the interwebs for the past half-decade or so, but what car makers are talking about now, most notably Ford, is a significant step up from where we are today.
Ford was demoing vehicles sporting what’s already considered “typical” connected feature fare, including hyper-accurate location information, remote locking and starting, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. More importantly, though, the company also announced what its CEO, Jim Hackett, called during his keynote, “cellular vehicle-to-everything” technology, which Ford PR wants us to call C-V2X.
Whatever you call it, this new data network focus intends to establish faster communication with other vehicles as well as smart city infrastructure, especially road-related stuff like traffic lights, smart signs, and more. Ford even claims this technology would have the ability to communicate over short distances without requiring cell connectivity, which means it’d be able to “see” around blind corners and do a better job of responding to varying weather conditions.
Ford didn’t offer too much in the way of technical detail on this new system, other than to say it was being built around special chipsets. While that could certainly have a positive effect on implementing a new kind of car data network, the overall project is still going to be dependent on a very fast cellular data network as the bedrock piping infrastructure. That means Ford, like all the other connected car makers at CES, is banking heavily on 5G mobile networks rolling out sooner rather than later.
Artificial Brains for Infotainment
Some of the most talked about developments at the show concerned car makers using artificial intelligence to power new dashboards and infotainment systems. The big names here were Hyundai and Mercedes, each with a different take on how drivers will control the vehicle of the future. Hyundai took the wrapper off its Intelligent Personal Cockpit, which amounts to a new kind of dashboard that uses AI to dynamically display information and telematics to the drive as well as manage voice recognition and a system that’ll keep track of the driver’s vital signs in case of emergency.
Mercedes called its smart cockpit the MBUX, which stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience. A little more visual than Hyundai’s solution, the MBUX was shown during a presentation to have three-dimensional digital displays and also respond to voice control and a touch screen. The system would add new features via over-the-air updates. The whole thing is nicely designed with minimalist displays that Mercedes hopes will make it easier on drivers to understand their vehicle’s inner workings—something the company’s cars are definitely not known for today.
Other intelligent cockpit concepts were on display from many third-party makers, including Denso and Pioneer, but most are still in the early stages of concept design. Both Hyundai and Mercedes hope to have their implementations in the real world in the next year or two.
So overall, there was gobs of new car tech glittering the halls of CES 2018. After trudging through this techno maze for several days, here’s a sampling of the sexiest vehicles—concept or production—to catch PCMag’s eye.
This post is originally from pcmag.com