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CES 2014 - First look at the latest automotive technology

It's all about smart features and energy efficiency at the Mercedes, Audi, Toyota and Ford stands

by Steve Withers Jan 12, 2014

  • Tech Article


    CES 2014 - First look at the latest automotive technology
    The North Hall at CES often includes a lot of automotive technology and this year the level of sophistication on display was genuinely impressive.
    If the Mercedes stand was anything to go by cars are getting seriously smart. Their new S-Class includes a predictive system that combines infotainment with telemetrics to tell you not only where you are but what you want and when. The system is also designed to interact with wearable devices such as Pebble’s smart watch, allowing you to communicate with and remotely control your car. The system even includes sophisticated diagnostics to keep track of the health of your vehicle.

    Mercedes Digital Drive Style is designed to help you avoid traffic and provide you with information about your destination. It can even communicate with your smart home and tell it to prepare for your arrival by turning on the heating and the lights for example. Unsurprisingly, Mercedes also have a multitude of in-car apps available - covering everything from music to radio and even suggestions on where to eat.
    The main reason for buying a car is to drive it and with Mercedes Intelligent Drive this has never been easier or safer.

    Of course the main reason for buying a car is to actually drive it and thanks to Mercedes' Intelligent Drive system this has never been easier or safer. This system includes a pre-safe break facility with pedestrian detection, which will be handy for driving in built-up areas. There’s also a cross traffic assist, an anti-collision assist, a steering assist and a crosswind assist. There are even sensors at the front and rear that Mercedes refer to as past and present. Although based on what we saw at their stand, it’s the future that the company is really interested in.

    At Audi’s stand there was plenty of eye candy with their latest S8 and A3 models on show, along with a concept version of their Sport Quattro. This prototype includes laser headlights, so if you thought the current trend for LED lights was bad enough get ready to really be blinded. Naturally the emphasis was on the technology inside the car and Audi were showing off their next generation dashboard which is designed to deliver a smarter and more intuitive interface.
    The dashboard utilises Audi’s smart display, which now includes a detachable Android tablet.

    The steering wheel has been redesigned and is much smaller, looking more like those found on Formula One cars. The dashboard utilises Audi’s smart display, which now includes a detachable Android tablet. This allows you to remain connected with your car, even when you’re not actually in it and also allows you to interact with and control your smart car remotely. Audi were also demonstrating their Piloted Driving system which will allow the car to actually drive itself. Now that really is smart.

    Unlike many of the other car manufactures, Toyota’s stand was emphasising alternative energy rather than smart technology. Pride of place went to Toyota’s FCV or Fuel Cell Vehicle. This uses a hydrogen fuel cell which, as the name suggests, generates energy using a hydrogen fuel source. There is a hydrogen tank onboard which you fill up at a hydrogen filling station and there are also large air intakes at the front of the car to mix oxygen with the hydrogen. This approach is not only more energy efficient but the by-product is water so it doesn’t pollute either. Toyota plan to launch their Fuel Cell Vehicle in 2015 and given our diminishing supplies of oil that’s got to be good news.
    Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell is not only efficient but it also doesn't pollute as its by-product is water.

    Also on show was Toyota’s FV2 future mobility concept car, although if we’re being honest it looked more like a cross between the light cycles from Tron and a Reliant Robin. Finally there was Toyota’s iRoad car, if that’s the right word because it looked more like a Sinclair C5 on steroids. Advertised under the banner ‘iRock, iRoll, iRoad’ this car was demonstrating just how tight its turning circles were. The iRoad is already available in Japan and whilst we can see the appeal there where people tend to be smaller and space is limited, we really can’t see it catching on in the US.

    At Ford’s stand the emphasis was on a combination of technology and energy efficiency, so the motor company had their new Fusion Energy Titanium Plug-in Hybrid on show. For the more traditional amongst us there was also their 2015 Mustang Fastback which certainly looks like a classic American muscle car. There was even a Ford Fiesta ST RX34, which was a souped-up 650 horse power rally cross car driven by Ken Block. In terms of in-car technology, Ford had their next generation Application 2.0 with voice control and vehicle data access, along with in-vehicle notification and an application catalogue.
    Ford's 2015 Mustang Fastback certainly looks like a classic American muscle car.

    But it wasn’t just about cars though as the motor giant was demonstrating their My Energi Lifestyle 2.0 software which is designed to optimise energy usage. There was also their My Ford Mobile App which is designed reduce energy costs by taking advantage of off-peak or reduced rates. The company is also seeking to maximise renewable energy through a combination of harvesting via solar panels, monitoring energy through advanced home energy management and storage through batteries. So when you think of Ford in the future, it’s worth remembering that it’s more than a car company.

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