Annual technology shows, such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) are the best places to see the future, and CES 2017 was no disappointment. Here are some of the coolest things seen at CES 2017…

Autonomous Vehicles

Driverless cars have been in development for a few years, at a dream for decades. Some companies have even managed to put some level of autonomous drive system on the road. At CES 2017, one might say driverless vehicle technology was one of the biggest displays, with new autonomous vehicles and technology on display by a number of manufacturers. Toyota, Hyundai, Lexus, and Nissan, among others, all had something to share in this new realm of automotive technology.

Ford introduced the next-generation autonomous vehicle, a test platform based on the Ford Fusion Hybrid. With improved sensor hardware, both in terms of sensitivity and aesthetics, and more computing power to process it, Ford’s new driverless car concept is both futuristic and yet firmly rooted in current automotive design.

We don’t know much about the next-generation Nissan Leaf, at least regarding price, range, and recharging technology. On the other hand, Nissan’s Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM) program was revealed to use NASA artificial intelligence programming to react to situations on the road. While in autonomous mode, if SAM comes across a situation in which it needs human intervention, it refers to human controllers in a central command center, who control the vehicle remotely.

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Interactive Systems

Far from simply getting us from place to place, today’s and tomorrow’s cars are now mobile offices, lounges, even a spot for relaxation. To make all these things possible, the ability to control all these systems is critical. At the same time, these same systems can be a burden to control if they distract the driver from his primary function, driving. BMW’s HoloActive Touch system offers an intuitive interface for controlling systems like navigation, climate control, and audio-video. Instead of being based on buttons, knobs, touchscreen, or touchpad, users control displays and systems using free-air hand gestures. Using tiny puffs of air, the system even provides haptic feedback.

Future Delivery

Tomorrow’s Amazon packages and Chinese take-out might not be via FedEx or a well-worn Corolla with mismatched body panels. The Mercedes Vision Van is an all-electric cargo van, with a range of 168 miles per charge. The automated cargo space loads and unloads packages, and a rooftop drone slot, and probably charger, sends packages right to the front door.

Augmented Reality

An extension of virtual reality, really a projection of virtual reality on the real world, is also making its way into the automotive space. Displayed in a modified Chrysler Pacifica, the Harman LIVS concept features a large LCD screen with a forward-view, or backward view for parking, I would guess, that overlays critical information on the image. Sensors detect conditions around the car, which LIVS interprets and displays as an overlay. For example, AR navigation might feature a live view of the road with a VR road sign and flashing arrow. In safety mode, the AR system might highlight pedestrians or animals to make them stand out against the background.

Every year, automakers and technology companies tempt us with new car concepts. Some of them may make is wonder who could ever want it, while others make us wonder how we could possibly live without it. What a time to drive!

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