This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – held between January 5 and 8 in Las Vegas – could have been mistaken to be exclusively an automotive technology show. Besides auto manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota and Nissan among others, about a dozen auto suppliers and hundreds of automotive tech related exhibitors were present at CES 2017. The announcements ranged from the latest development in self-driving systems to innovations in in-car user interfaces to electric cars with improved performance. Here are the most important auto tech announcements from CES 2017.
Ford and Amazon Echo integration is now official
Ford and Amazon officially announced that the Amazon Echo smart home device will soon be available in Ford vehicles. What this means is that the car owner will be able to switch on the lights at home while still driving back from work, or conversely start the car and unlock the door using Amazon Alexa voice commands while finishing up on breakfast. The rollout is expected to be carried out in two phases. In the first phase, which is expected to be as early as later this month, Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Amazon Tap will be made available to car owners. In the second phase, the voice control features of Alexa will be implemented.
Honda’s electric ride-sharing concept car
With cities around the world becoming more congested with traffic than ever, ride-sharing has emerged as a viable alternative for day-to-day commutes. Honda showcased a concept vehicle called NeuV at CES 2017 specifically for the ride-sharing segment. NeuV (pronounced noo-vee) stands for New Electric Urban Vehicle. It will provide car owners the option to optimally use the car’s down time, and at the same time monetize it. So, while the owner isn’t using the vehicle it could be programmed to pick up or drop off others. The other option would be to sell back the energy stored in the car to a common grid. NeuV is also equipped with artificial intelligence that will study the vehicle’s usage patterns and provide driving tips. To top it an electric skateboard is provided with the car so that you can glide to your workstation from the car park.
Nissan to integrate Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana into select cars
Japanese auto major Nissan is working with Microsoft to integrate its Connected Vehicle Platform, which is built on top of Microsoft Azure and includes productivity tools such as Cortana and Office 365 among others. Nissan showcased a concept video at CES 2017 that provided a peek into how Cortana would be utilized. Besides calendar integration and features like maps, Cortana is expected to adapt to individual user’s preferences with time. It’s worth noting that BMW has also announced a similar partnership with Microsoft.
Android based car infotainment system
Fiat Chrysler and Google have collaborated once again to develop a new infotainment system, which has combined Fiat Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system with Android 7.0 Nougat. UConnect’s user interface has been retained and combined with Android apps such as Google Assistant and Maps, plus other apps like Spotify, Pandora, etc. The automobile specific system that Android has to offer is both open source and offers customization options, and is likely to attract carmakers who view the in-car infotainment system as extension of their brand. These two companies had earlier worked together to integrate Google’s driverless cars’ hardware and software into Chrysler’s Pacifica minivans.
BMW’s HoloActive Touch System
The Bavarian auto giant showcased its new in-car user interface called HoloActive Touch. It is still at the concept stage. The system, which employs a virtual display, is controlled using finger gestures instead of a touchscreen. The virtual display is projected just above the car’s central console, which also ensures equal ease of access for the driver and front passenger. What makes HoloActive compelling is that the system responds to the user with haptic feedback, similar to what one feels while tapping a button on a smartphone screen. How this works is that sensors track the user’s gestures, which is synchronized with vents that release air to create the haptic response. The HoloActive Touch system was unveiled along with BMW’s concept interior called BMWi Inside Future for autonomous vehicles. Apparently, the German carmaker is already working with Intel and Mobileye, and is expected to launch a test batch of driverless cars later this year.