While the cars of tomorrow don't appear to have flux capacitors, not yet anyway, auto companies from around the globe unveiled some exciting things regarding vehicles of the future at this year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
Cue gratuitous shot of Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) showing up to CES in his souped-up DeLorean. While Lloyd was actually in attendance to support Gibson Guitars as they celebrated an important anniversary, car companies like BMW and Ford were in the house to show off automotive technologies on the horizon.
The big noise out of both Ford and Mercedes is connectivity. As if being connected constantly via your smart phone weren’t enough, both companies are working on integrating the same cloud technology you use on your wireless device with your next car. The next Ford Mustang, the featured car of the event, promises wireless connectivity between your smartphone, the cloud and your car. By enhancing the voice command options and simplifying menu options, the goal is to give drivers access to the apps they use while keeping their hands firmly ,and safely, on the wheel.
“We are now making the in-vehicle app experience simpler and more intuitive to further help drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road,” Raj Nair, Fords VP of Global Product Development, said in a statement.
While Mercedes already offers a slew of hands-free options in their line, the next step is integrating your smart house to your smart car that talks to your smart phone. Teaming with Nest, the high tech home thermostat and environment system, and Pebble, a start-up competitor to the Samsung Gear watch, to create a car that can let your house know you’re on the way to switch on the heater or AC and send updates to your watch when something is amiss in your engine or it’s time for an oil change. The Digital Drive Style App should be available to drivers as soon as later this year.
Smart technology may be fun, but the high tech wave of the future most drivers are excited about is fuel efficiency. As hybrid cars go from the fad they were thought to be years ago, to some of the highest selling vehicles on the market, companies are working with technology companies to create cars that are not only smart, but also environmentally and economically sustainable.
Toyota introduced their latest innovation, the H2 hydrogen sedan, which they have been perfecting for decades.
Bob Carter, senior vice-president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor sales here in the US, told crowds at CES “hydrogen works beautifully with oxygen to create water and electricity and nothing more.” Aside from being good for the air you breath, Toyota also promises the car will be reasonably priced and offer a 300 mile range with only five minutes of charging time. Sales of the H2 will hit California first in 2015, as it is currently the only state in the US with hydrogen stations.
Ford also unveiled their plans for a solar powered car, the C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid. Sadly, this car is still in concept form with no date on mass production. While this concept car shows that motor companies are thinking about energy alternatives, the Energi would still be tied to fossil fuels and even with the solar paneled roof, the car could only get about 21 miles from a solar charge.
Audi and BMW came to CES with their own versions of tomorrow’s car, and it looks like it drives itself.
BMW demonstrated a modified version of its 2 Series Coupe and its 6-series Gran Coupe uses 360 degree radar, ultrasonic sensors and cameras to control power slides and drifts without any driver intervention.
Audi’s A7 stole the show by doing more than a drift, it drove itself onstage. The zFAS brain, the size of an iPhone, under the hood makes the A7 fully autonomous. I’ll be naming mine K.I.T.T. Oh, and did we mention their Sport Quatro has laser headlamps? Yeah. Though this self driving technology could potentially cut auto accidents in half, only California, Nevada, and Florida have allowed these futuristic features on their roads.
While the vehicles of the future may be hydrogen powered, self driving, smart cars, we still have no word on those hover conversions. Maybe next year?
Images: Ford Motor Company, Toyota