CES 2018: The automobile future in Las Vegas
As in previous years, the latest trends for the future of driving were revealed right at the beginning of 2018. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, manufacturers and suppliers presented their visions of future mobility.
BFFT, the innovative vehicle technology developer from Gaimersheim, also visited the gamblers’ metropolis to experience a trade fair which is increasingly shifting its focus from home electronics to holistic mobility concepts. It’s no surprise that the industry’s big OEMs use CES as an international showcase for their visions. This article describes some of the developments that impressed us most in Las Vegas.
Let’s begin with a new contender in the industry that has every intention of turning the world of cars upside-down. Byton isn’t the first startup that has attempted to do that, but the Chinese company has bought in a great deal of German automotive expertise. For example, Byton CEO Carsten Breitfeld was responsible for developing the BMW i8. The near-series prototype of a coupé-like SUV is apparently very similar to the consumer model that is expected to appear later this year. The 4.85 metre-long Byton is positioned almost exactly between the Audi Q5 and Q7.
Graphics specialist nVidia announced an extensive cooperation with Volkswagen that will allow the automobile manufacturer from Wolfsburg to equip its upcoming electric series with the latest advances in artificial intelligence. Future VW models will use Deep Learning algorithms to control autonomous driving manoeuvres and learn to correctly assess traffic situations. Volkswagen intends to introduce the serial version of the I.D. in 2020. The I.D. Buzz will be fully integrated into the digital age, as one of an impressive total of 20 new models that are to be presented by the year 2025.
Henrik Fisker – ex-BMW designer and creator of the Z8 – is planning his comeback in the electronic car market with the EMotion. Roughly ten years after his first attempt with the Fisker Karma range-extender model, the Danish-born designer is working on a fully-electric limousine with a range of 640 kilometres, four-wheel drive and distinctive 24-inch wheels. Sophisticated sensors should make the EMotion capable of Level 4 autonomous driving.
One of the highlights from Mercedes Benz at CES was the cockpit for the brand new A-Class series. The most striking elements of a range of impressive features were the two 26 inch widescreen displays, which merge into homogenous unity behind a single glass screen. This setup was used to display Mercedes’ brand new MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) operating concept. The system is controlled with a touch screen mounted above the transmission tunnel, with two touch-control surfaces already familiar from the steering wheel spokes of the E and S-Classes, or even through voice input, similarly to the Alexa and Siri voice assistants. Another big attraction at the show was the over 1000 horsepower AMG Project One hypercar.
Operating concepts using voice assistants were one of the hot topics at the 2018 CES. At the end of the previous year, almost every exhibitor’s stand featured a concept themed on 3D cartography and Deep Learning, but the most popular subjects at this year’s CES were intelligent voice input systems and button-free cockpit concepts. Regardless of whether they might go by the name of Alexa, Cortana, Siri or whatever, voice assistants will be used to communicate with cars in future – and not only by means of set phrases, but within an entertainment environment that is as natural as possible.
Industry supplier Continental’s vision for the future is based on sweeping cockpit displays, whereby the driving information and infotainment areas are strictly separated and yet overlapping. An interesting point is that Conti has integrated displays for digital rear-view cameras at both ends of the unit.
Innovator and inventor Frank Rinderknecht exhibited yet another ground-breaking concept vehicle, just as he has done year after year at the world’s major trade fairs. In Las Vegas, the Swiss inventor unveiled a fully-automatic minibus called Snap, which features a driving platform that is completely separated from the driving “pod”, thus allowing the platform to be combined with pods for various travel or transporting purposes.
The Koreans at Hyundai wouldn’t have been satisfied by exhibiting an electrical project that focused on a point in the distant future, so they went a step further by presenting a completely developed series model with fuel cell technology. The Nexo is a standalone model and is not based on a conventional series, as was its predecessor, the ix35 Fuel Cell. Its length of 4.67 metres makes it slight shorter than the Hyundai Santa Fe or a Skoda Kodiaq. Its fuel cell technology converts hydrogen into electricity while driving, and the tank-filling process is theoretically just as quick as filling a petrol tank – but hydrogen filling stations are still scarce.
On the other hand, Hyundai’s sister company Kia continues to develop the Niro EV electromobile concept, which is powered by a battery pack. Its 64 kWh battery pack is designed to offer a range of almost 400 kilometres. The electric motor itself delivers a practical and unexaggerated 150 kW. The Niro EV is also up-to-date in terms of driver interfaces: in addition to offering facial and vocal recognition, it can also be controlled by gestures and has a touch area in the steering wheel.
It was a great show with some innovative concepts – and if the future of driving turns out the way it was presented at CES 2018, we can’t wait!