Yesterday, we landed in Las Vegas, Nevada to get ready for the world’s most important consumer electronics and technology show. Here’s 5 things you can expect to see in automotive this year…
I – No Driver Required
I saw a quotation recently claiming that children born today will never have to pass a conventional driving test because driverless technology is only 5 to 10 years away from being introduced into the public domain. Whether this is true or slight hyperbole, its obvious that a concept previously reserved as a sci-fi fantasy is now very much about to happen. The systems are there and once the infrastructure is in place, it’s the logical next step for transportation.
At CES this year, Navya will typify the future with the ARMA, a ‘100% driverless, completely electric, autonomous shuttle vehicle’ which has been doing the rounds at a mock city, funded by the University of Michigan. The bus, which can carry up to fifteen people and can reach speeds of up to 45km/h, will be shuttling show visitors around Las Vegas this week to provide many with their first experience of driverless technology. With a focus on safety and accident avoidance, it’s hard to imagine that this type of vehicle won’t dominate the taxi sector, at the very least, beyond 2020.
II – Interiors are Evolving
Its been many years since people viewed the interior of their car as a place with three pedals, a gearstick and (occasionally) a cassette player and so naturally, with the advent of driverless technology must come a renaissance in interior design. This year, BMW has stepped up to the plate with its i Inside Future – a concept car without the car. Really, it’s just a spec’d out interior – but focus precedes laziness in this case as the German’s point prophetically towards the way things are heading.
The i Inside Future imagines the car as a room, capitalising on the driver’s new found freedom inside an autonomous cockpit. The presentation is elegant and simple, with the whole dashboard space replaced by a full-length display and a three dimensional HoloActive Touch screen. The ‘screen’ recognises touch via a high-sensitivity camera and ultrasonic waves, allowing the driver to make inputs in thin air and eliminating the need for buttons entirely. This technology, combined with advanced voice commands, dispenses with the traditionally physical aspects of driving and focuses more on economy of movement and priority of action. Also interesting is the BMW Sound Curtain, a type of virtual, sonic barrier which allows each individual passenger to receive their own audio source without interruption.
It’s starting to look like that 5 to 10 year prediction might be accurate, isn’t it?
III – The Future? It’s Still Fun
Have no fear, Faraday Future is here. A relative baby in the automotive world, the Californian start-up from 2014 has spent the last two years investing, planning and building. Now, at CES, they are ready to begin their journey proper with the debut of their first production vehicle, the FF91 – an immensely powerful, fast and dynamic electric car set to dazzle naysayers of progressive technologies. Electric cars can’t go fast? Say hello to 1,050 horsepower. Electric cars can’t travel far? How about 500 miles per hour of charge. Electric cars cramp your style? Just look at it.
Although it’s just the beginning, the FF91 effectively lays down the gauntlet to the world, setting a bar for manufacturers who don’t believe green is fashionable, fun or ergonomic. From the press materials available, the vehicle feels like a winning combination of excess and usability – the hallmarks of a great supercar. Small details, like the ability to transfer user settings from vehicle to vehicle via a personal ID, are also potential waypoints for the future, but this thing is made for speed, and that will likely stand as its legacy.
IV – Drone Delivery Meets Mercedes
It seems that cargo services are also set to evolve as the Mercedes Vision Van debuts at CES. The van, seemingly chiselled out of a hunk of alien metal, looks about as futuristic as it gets and its technology is befitting of such a cutting-edge appearance. An automatic cargo space sorts out all the loading and categorisation and a communications system takes care of the data side of things, relaying GPS and parcel information to distributing centres. The Vision also comes equipped with a top mounted 12 mile range drone which carries packages to their final destinations on arrival, lessening the work for the driver.
With companies like Amazon truly paving the way for shoppers, and already testing drone technologies in their delivery strategies, it seems like only a matter of time before vehicles like this van, which offer better economy and speed of delivery, become crucial in how the world receives its mail.
V – Say Goodbye to Congestion
One of the leading problems on the roads these days is that there’s too many cars, and not enough roads to drive them on. Shows like The Grand Tour and Top Gear are the world’s leading vehicle television programmes, largely because Clarkson and co. have the clout to go and drive really fast in parts of the world where traffic isn’t an issue. Some of my fondest memories of Top Gear were watching the famous three drive unrestrained around a barren Nürburgring or ducking and weaving around the Swiss Alps. Like all great entertainment, we experience something we can’t vicariously through the screen.
Although it’s true that few of us will ever have quire that level of freedom, Honda are aiming to do something about the traffic problem with their NeuV Concept at CES this year. The small, boxy car has a single seat and is tailored to deal with large quantities of traffic – a new-age city car for the masses. Visually a combination of a Smart Fourtwo and a washing machine, the NeuV isn’t a looker, but efficiency doesn’t always have to look good and Honda are clearly focused on a solution with this concept, rather than the bells and whistles. The vehicle also boasts something called the ’emotion engine’ which allegedly imparts the car with feelings in what is definitely a step towards SkyNet, if you ask me.
We’ll find out more about that during the show – we’ll do our best not to upset it.
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