Automotive technology steals the show at CES

By Steve Winter, special to wtop.com

LAS VEGAS — The North American International Auto Show opens next week, and it’s always highly anticipated, but car enthusiasts with a passion for technology aren’t focused solely on Detroit.

Fact is, they had everything they need right here in Las Vegas at CES.

With nine major auto manufacturers and more than 100 accessory producers and suppliers packing the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, CES was loaded with all things related to automotive innovation, several of which appeared to come straight out of the 22nd century.

For example, Mercedes-Benz’s newly-crafted E-Class sedan features an HD-quality monitor split into dual cockpit screens operated separately by mini touch-pads that sit conveniently under each thumb. And the Ford GT race car, with its Eco-Boost engine, has been formally dubbed Official Vehicle of CES 2016.

Impressive as they are, those innovations were just the tip of the iceberg.

“The technology that consumers use in their everyday lives is all around the show here,” said Alan Hall, communications manager of technology, research and innovation for Ford. “It’s important for us to understand that, and it’s important for us to integrate that into our cars, making it easy for our customers to use as they’re driving in a safe way — while adding convenience and just cool features to  the driving experience.”

Several manufacturers followed suit, with major CES presences from Volkswagen, displaying their electric Microbus concept; BMW, which unveiled a bold new concept for automotive gesture controls, and the Ford/Google partnership, which introduced the Faraday Future FFZero1 electric-powered single-seat concept car — with four “Quad Core” motors producing over 1,000 hp, zero-to-60 acceleration under three seconds and a top speed over 200 mph.

“You won’t see many auto manufacturers introducing their new lines for the coming year,” said Jim Pisz, corporate business manager of North American business systems for Toyota. “While CES is undeniably the place for innovation and revolution, the traditional auto shows found in every city around the world are still the place to go to experience new models and products.”

One major manufacturer, however, took advantage of CES to introduce a new product: GM unveiled its 2017 Chevy EV, a crossover electric hatchback with a 200-mile range, priced at around $30,000 after incentives. Chock-full of technology, the Bolt integrates exterior weather conditions, the prevailing terrain and even the time of day with the owner’s driving history to help manage and predict performance. The large center-mounted 10.2-inch MyLink screen provides a display for the wide-angle rear camera with a birds-eye view capability, while OnStar provides 4G LTE and a wifi hotspot to occupants.

Today’s consumer wants more than just a vehicle from their vehicle. They want connectivity as well as the safety and lifestyle benefits afforded by new automotive technology.

Editor’s Note: Longtime CES attendees Steve Winter and Kenny Fried are contributing reports from the show. In their day jobs, they are public relations professionals with Sage Communications. During CES they are not reporting on any of their clients’ products or those of direct competitors.

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