Future car tech: the gadgetry that could change the world
We visited CES in Las Vegas last month to try the latest car gadgetry, which includes Nissan Leaf-powered coffee machines and autonomous lorries
Ford Domino's delivery vehicle: The car giant displayed a self-driving Fusion that was used to trial autonomous Domino’s Pizza deliveries in Michigan. Customers accessed their cheese-lathered deliveries by inputting a code to open a special hatch in the back of the car
Harman Moodscape: Forget a sunroof, Harman has developed a massive screen that projects a 'visual experience' over your heard
TuSimple Level 4 autonomous lorry: converted Peterbilt has already completed more than 10,000 miles of testing
Nissan Leaf vehicle-to-grid charging: Turns out the battery of a Leaf can be used to power a macchiato machine. Seriously. 3D printed photo of Autocar digital editor's face on frothy foam optional
Panasonic Living Space Autonomous Cabin: The firm had three interiors on display, showcasing ideas for Level 3, 4 and 5 autonomous cars. This is the concept for their level 5 car, which it thinks could hit the road sometime around 2030
WayRay smart glass: Swiss firm WayRay has developed an augmented reality head-up display that uses 'smart glass' that allows a wider display than traditional systems
Panasonic Living Space Autonomous Cabin: The firm's 2030 living cabin also features 'smart wood' that can house touchscreen-style heating controls
Yamaha 06GEN: Yes, it's a golf cart, but it's also a 'last-mile mobility' autonomous device capable of driving itself at speeds up to 12mph
WayRay Navion: The Swiss firm has also developed an aftermarket AR head-up display, which features app- and gesture controls
WayRay Navion: The aftermarket system is due this year, and WayRay hopes to launch the full smart glass system in 2019 (pending deals with car firms or fleet managers)
Mercedes-Benz User Experience: The firm showcased its new infotainment system, which features What3Words, a navigation system that carves the world up into three-metre squares, with each assigned a unique three-word code
Mercedes-Benz User Experience: The tech will first make it to roads in the new A-Class, which is due out this year
#AccessibleOlli: This is a 3D-printed autonomous taxi developed by US firm Local Motors. IBM is helping to crowdsource ideas on how to make Olli accessible to all. Like the Mercedes-Benz, it also features What3Words
Kia 5G connection: The Korean firm demonstrated 5G mobile technology, establishing a rapid live link-up between its CES stand and its head office in Seoul
Murata robot cheerleaders: Alongside the car tech at CES were plenty of robots. This one dances. Murata has a whole squadron of them in action. Be afraid
Omron ping pong robot: This AI robot can play table tennis. It's very good, in case you were wondering.
Omron ping pong robot: It doesn't look like it'd take too kindly to losing...
We're barely six weeks into 2018 but already the automotive industry has welcomed plenty of weird and futuristic new technology to the world. Such is the pace of development that it's easy to lose track.
Refreshed saloon is much more convincing inside, but range-topping 2.5-litre...
Fear not, because Autocar is on hand to keep you very much up to date in the world of car tech, with our recent visit to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) providing a clear window of the future.
CES, held annually in Las Vegas, is the world's biggest technology show – and becoming an increasingly important event for car firms. Several big manufacturers used CES to demonstrate their drive towards autonomous, connected and electrified cars, and to do deals with the technology firms that can help them get to the future faster than their rivals.
Read on to see what advancements it suggested are due for the car industry of tomorrow. Much of technology is far closer to production than you might think.
Nissan demonstrated its vehicle-to- home charging concept, where energy can be taken from a Leaf’s battery and fed back into your home, by using a new Leaf to power a macchiato machine (and, bizarrely, a printer that could render your photo onto the frothy top). It doubtless proved useful when the Las Vegas Convention Centre suffered an extended power cut on the second day of CES.
When's it due? The vehicle-to-home system is available now and can provide energy back to the grid, potentially cutting your bills. Deliveries of the system will be by 2019.
Our view: Vehicle-to-home charging could be vital in coping with the growth of EVs. FOUR STARS
As for the macchiato? Too milky, lukewarm and, frankly, drinking a coffee with my face on was just plain odd. TWO STARS
The term ‘last-mile mobility’ refers to vehicles that can cover short journeys where cars, buses and taxis can’t go–for example, from your car park to your office – and is particularly beneficial to the disabled or elderly.
The challenge is making such an autonomous machine affordable. Yamaha’s solution is the 06GEN, capable of 12mph and based on a golf cart platform. Alongside a 3D Lidar scanner to detect objects, a camera is mounted on the bottom of the vehicle pointing to the ground. It matches the pictures with stored mapping data, allowing it to navigate accurately.
When's it due? It’s already out testing. If it works, it can surely be applied to more than just autonomous golf carts.
Our view: Great tech, but it's still a golf cart. THREE STARS
TuSimple’s autonomous lorry
The biggest self-driving vehicle at CES – in terms of physical size, at least – was TuSimple’s specially modified Peterbilt. Designed for Level 4 autonomous driving, the Chinese firm’s three trucks, developed in partnership with Nvidia and Peterbilt, have already completed more than 10,000 miles of testing on the roads of Arizona.
When's it due? The aim is for the autonomous trucks to start taking paying loads – initially between distribution centres in Arizona, with humans taking over for the final deliveries – by 2019.
Our view: Autonomous tech could have a huge impact on long-distance hauling. Safety must be fully proven, though. FOUR STARS
Navigation system What3Words has been in development since 2013 but, with the launch of the Mercedes- Benz User Experience, CES was our first chance to try it in a mainstream production car.
Essentially, What3Words carves the world up into three-metre squares, with each assigned a unique three-word code – easier to remember than postcodes, and opening up navigation in places where such things don’t exist. Simply say the code and the voice-controlled MBUX will guide you to that square.
What3Words also featured in the self-driving Olli concept at CES. In case you were wondering, the three-word address for Autocar Towers is ‘discouraged spout value’.
When's it due? What3Words works now in app form, or you can wait until August for the new A-Class to go on sale.
Our view: It could be practical, but we can't stop randomly looking up three-word names for places. Cocktail spill mining, anyone? FOUR STARS
Harman’s shape-shifting speakers
Samsung subsidiary Harman has developed a configurable entertainment system, designed to ensure passengers in Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services can enjoy their audio preferences.
The most dramatic part is the firm’s shape-shifting speakers. Users can take a picture-based personality test to determine if their preferences match the Harman Kardon or JBL hi-fi brands – with the speakers changing shape accordingly. No, really, there is a difference: a JBL speaker features a deeper cone, giving it a more bassy sound. Honest.
Another Harman concept was the Moodscape system that adjusts the in-car experience, complete with an OLED Moodroof screen. After all, why have a sun roof when you can watch a ‘visual experience’ on a massive TV above you instead?
When's it due? The tech exists but, given much of it is developed for autonomous cars, we wouldn’t expect to see ‘OLED Moodroof’ on a spec sheet too soon.
Our view: Cool tech, but our ears aren't finely tuned enough to tell much difference. THREE-AND-A-HALF STARS
Head-up displays are getting fancier and several firms at CES showed off systems that can overlay live data such as directions, speed limits and so on onto your window, creating an augmented-reality display.
Swiss firm WayRay has developed a system that uses ‘smart glass’ embedded in the windscreen, allowing the projected image to fill it. The device uses a front-facing HD camera and mapping data to display directions and other information.
On top of that, WayRay is aiming to work with third-party developers to produce apps that could, for example, highlight where the nearest branch of a certain coffee shop chain is.
When's it due? Mid-2019, depending on WayRay striking deals with car manufactures or large fleet customers (the special windscreen has to be embedded at production). This year, WayRay will launch Navion, an app- and gesture-controlled aftermarket AR system.
Our view: It makes real driving look more like a computer game. Hard to appreciate fully in a show environment, though. FOUR STARS
#AccessibleOlli 3D printed autonomous shuttle
Olli is a self-driving autonomous taxi developed by US firm Local Motors. It features two 3D-printed carbonfibre shells mounted onto a manufactured chassis and is capable of a 25mph top speed and a 40-mile range. Because it is 3D-printed, it can take just three months to design and manufacture a new shell.
A scheme has been launched to crowdsource ideas on how to open Olli, and mobility in general, to all.
When's it due? Olli is running now and you can suggest ideas to make it better using the hashtag #AccessibleOlli.
Our view: Worth celebrating for innovative production method and for encouraging greater social mobility. FOUR-AND-A-HALF STARS
Kia’s stand featured a series of interior dashboard concepts for autonomous connected cars. One demonstrated the marque’s 5G mobile technology, using it for a live link-up with Kia HQ in Seoul. The ultra-fast 5G connection would allow for incredibly quick data transfer to and from a car, essential for self-driving vehicles (and for streaming TV shows for people not driving them).
Exciting stuff, then, although it could be some time before the infrastructure is in place to support it.
When's it due? Here’s the problem: mobile connectivity boffins haven’t even agreed a standard for 5G yet, let alone a roll-out date. It’s likely to be at least 2020, and quite possibly later.
Our view: Live link looked good – and we welcome anything that will allow us to file our copy faster. FOUR-AND-A-HALF STARS
Ford didn’t unveil any new cars at CES, but the firm had a high profile with boss Jim Hackett delivering one of the keynote speeches. He unveiled a series of bold plans to help develop the connectivity framework essential for autonomous cars in the future.
Various projects announced involved working with Qualcomm to develop CV2X (Cellular Vehicle to Everything – essentially ensuring cars can talk to other internet- enabled devices) and with Autonomic to develop the Transportation Mobility Cloud. The latter is an attempt to create an open platform to allow city-based transport systems to communicate with each other. Another deal was with Postmates, an app-based courier network, to expand self-driving delivery technology.
These are big things that Ford attacked. All too much to take in? Well, a real-world application of autonomous tech was on display on Ford’s stand: a self-driving Fusion that was used to trial autonomous Domino’s Pizza deliveries in Michigan. The future might be complicated, but it’s also covered in tasty cheese and pepperoni...
When's it due? Ford has more than 700,000 connected vehicles and is aiming to have them linked to its nascent network by 2019. Postmates trials begin this year. A Domino’s pizza can be delivered in 30 minutes (but probably by a man on a scooter).
Our view: Self-driving cars can't deliver to your door – you have to go and get the pizza from the car. Outrageous. THREE STARS
Panasonic’s Living Space Autonomous Cabin
Panasonic had three interiors on display, showcasing ideas for Level 3, 4 and 5 autonomous cars. The Living Space Autonomous Cabin previewed the latter, for potentially around 2030. The four-seat design featured an in-built office, climate control that could adjust to each passenger’s needs (showcased by a night vision-style thermal display on a huge screen built into the ceiling) and windows with built-in OLED touchscreens. As well as being able to display films, these could be used to write on – yes, it’s a more advanced version of a misted-up window...
When's it due? The touchscreen OLED tech works now but the concept was a vision for 2030, so don’t expect to be scribbling on your windscreen any time soon.
Our view: Won't feature much scenery, as we'll be too busy scribbling on our windows. FOUR STARS