Connected Cars Pick Up Speed at CES 2015

I attended last week’s Consumer Electronics Show and one thing became apparent quickly – the consumer cars of the future were the main attraction. The conversation about self-driving cars has been happening for some time, but the age of self-driving cars seems to be quickly approaching.

The connected cars I saw at CES do more than read your text messages and supply directions. In fact, they feature everything from complete autonomy to elaborate gadgetry to an app that turns your car into a self-driving valet. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Audi all offered demos of their automated car technology at this year’s show.

Photo credit: BMW

Photo credit: BMW

BMW debuted their Remote Valet Parking Assistant. The Assistant uses laser sensors and navigation technology to park the car hands-free or pick you up after using a simple command.

Werner Huber, head of driver assistance at BMW Research, explained the reason behind the technology. “Parking your car we all know can be such a waste of time, so we think there’s a very real use for a vehicle that you exit and send on its way.”

I agree with Huber. I would especially like to have the parking assist feature when I’m traveling. Imagine arriving at the airport, your car dropping you off at the front door and then driving itself to find a spot in the parking garage. And when you return after a long day of traveling, the car could you pick you back up at the front door.

In addition to the Assistant, BMW also showed off their new touch-screen and gesture controls for its iDrive interface. With the new technology, you could answer a phone call by pointing in a certain direction or adjust the volume of your music by drawing circles in the air.

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz also made a large splash with their concept car: the F 015 ‘Luxury in Motion.’ Luxury is the perfect word to describe this car with a carbon fiber body, a dream-like interior including swiveling seats and touchscreens, changing LED lights, and radars to detect motion.

Although the F 015 appears to be the perfect combination of design and safety mechanisms needed for self-driving cars, it was only a prototype. I don’t think we’ll be seeing this car on the market any time soon.

VW Golf R Touch | AndrewBolwell.com

Photo credit: Volkswagen

Volkswagen announced their gesture-controlled Golf R Touch concept and autonomous parking technology. The “hands-off” system eliminates the physical switches and controls we’re used to in cars. For example, instead of pressing a button to open the sunroof, the Golf R Touch allows you to open it using a swiping motion.

The car company also debuted “Trained Parking” technology which uses a front-facing camera and software to detects patterns in your parking. If you park in the same spot every day, your car “learns” this pattern and perform this parking maneuver for you. You could also park your car without being inside the car. Using a smartphone app, you can instruct your car to proceed to a particular spot.

With this type of technology, it will be interesting to see what fail-safes will be put in place. I tend to park on the same side of the driveway every day, but occasionally my kids take my spot so I hope there is a way to override the system.

Photo credit: Audi

Photo credit: Audi

Audi successfully sent their self-driving car to CES this year. The car, nicknamed “Jack”, traveled at speeds up to 70 mph during its 560-mile journey from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas. The drive included automatic lane changes, passing maneuvers, and successfully put a spotlight on the company’s “Piloted Driving” technology.

Once the car arrived at the show, it was summoned onto the stage using an LG smartwatch made specifically for Audi. The car also had an impressive interior which was entirely operable through Android Auto and and Audi tablet.

While the technological advancements of these cars are compelling, I also appreciate the automation possibilities these cars create. The connected cars of the future will allow technology to automate the mundane while people are able to focus on more important things – working, relaxing or whatever they want to do.

In past years, people were asking why cars were included at CES, but no one seems to be asking that question after this year’s show. Now the question is, which of these self-driving cars are you looking forward to most?

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