Fol­low a 3D road map

The Advertiser - Motoring - - COVER STORY - CRAIG DUFF

MAP­PING the fu­ture di­rec­tion of the car is the re­cur­ring theme at this year’s Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in Las Vegas.

Be­yond the hype over BMW’s stun­ning i8 Spy­der, car brands and sup­pli­ers pre­viewed next-gen nav­i­ga­tion.

Au­ton­o­mous cars need pre­cise maps and ac­cu­rate GPS set­ups. They also need an ar­ray of sen­sors and cam­eras to process where they are on the road. Among oth­ers, Toy­ota, Ford and GM plan to use the in­car tech to re­fine the maps and cre­ate 3D en­vi­ron­ments that iden­tify road signs and build­ings.

The crowd­sourced maps premise re­lies on suc­ces­sive ve­hi­cles cre­at­ing con­tin­ual over­lays to give real-time up­dates of changes in road con­di­tions and traf­fic.

Once the maps are sorted, Volvo reck­ons you’ll want to watch stream­ing video and has a 26-inch mon­i­tor so you can do just that while the car han­dles the bor­ing bits of the drive. The soft­ware even cal­cu­lates any mo­bile phone re­cep­tion “dead spots” on your route and caches the pro­gram to avoid buf­fer­ing.

Adop­tion of Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto just keeps ac­cel­er­at­ing — Chrysler and Ford con­firm they’ll sup­port both apps. Ford’s open-source SmartDe­vice Link, via which the app in­ter­faces with the car, shapes as a de­fault stan­dard.

Honda, Subaru and Mazda are as­sess­ing the plat­form’s po­ten­tial while Toy­ota has adopted it al­ready.

Ford also plans to link its Sync in­fo­tain­ment with smart home de­vices — team­ing with Ama­zon Echo and Wink, it will en­able driv­ers to open a garage door or turn on the front light as the car ap­proaches.

The Blue Oval will triple its on-road fleet of au­ton­o­mous cars to 30 to re­fine its vir­tual driver soft­ware.

The i8 Spy­der was os­ten­si­bly a test­bed for BMW’s up­dated ges­ture-con­trol soft­ware — driv­ers op­er­ate the “AirTouch” screen with­out ac­tu­ally touch­ing it.

It looks more in­tu­itive than the lim­ited ges­ture-con­trol that de­buted in the lat­est 7 Se­ries. Whether it will be any sim­pler or less dis­tract­ing than voice con­trol or steer­ing wheel but­tons re­mains to be seen.

GM’s take on the fu­ture is a $500 mil­lion punt on ride­hail­ing ser­vice Lyft (think of it as Uber’s lit­tle brother) as a plat­form to de­velop on-de­mand driver­less cars. More prac­ti­cally from GM, Chevro­let will launch its elec­tric Bolt hatch with a range of up to 300km.

Volk­swa­gen’s elec­tric Budd.e mini-van, to go into pro­duc­tion in Mex­ico next year, has a range of up to 500km. VW says its re­veal “marks the be­gin­ning of a new era of af­ford­able longdis­tance elec­tro­mo­bil­ity”.

It is tipped to have the nowobli­ga­tory au­ton­o­mous driv­ing ca­pa­bil­ity while new dis­play and op­er­at­ing tech will turn up in road­go­ing cars. “In­no­va­tions such as the Golf R Touch con­cept car (will find) their way into Volk­swa­gen’s broad prod­uct port­fo­lio,” the hype says.

Fara­day Fu­ture’s lu­di­crous 750kW hy­per­car, still two years from pro­duc­tion, will look noth­ing like the swoopy con­sumer show con­cept. It’s all about what’s un­derneath.

The US firm has cre­ated a mod­u­lar chas­sis and bat­tery pack lay­out that in the­ory can un­der­pin ev­ery­thing from a peo­ple-mover to a pick-up. With back­ing from a Chi­nese ty­coon and key tech­ni­cal staff poached from ri­val Tesla, the start-up can’t be ig­nored.

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