ED­MUNDS HIGH­LIGHTS TOP CAR TECH TRENDS FROM CES

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Ev­ery year at the In­ter­na­tional Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show (CES) in Las Ve­gas, we get a glimpse of what ve­hi­cles may be — and what they could do. The event has also be­come an an­nual progress re­port on the lat­est elec­tric ve­hi­cles and how close we are to “full driv­ing au­to­ma­tion,” as the So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers calls it. Here are a few ve­hi­cle trends from CES that you’ll see in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture and some oth­ers that are much fur­ther away.

BY­TON’S IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGN

By­ton, a Chi­nese elec­tric au­tomaker, is re­veal­ing its plan for bring­ing the M-Byte SUV to the United States, along with a close ap­prox­i­ma­tion of its high-tech in­te­rior. The com­pany says it in­tends to re­tain many of the unique ideas from its con­cept ve­hi­cle, such as a 48-inch curved dash­board dis­play, a touch­screen on the steer­ing wheel, and the first in­ward-ro­tat­ing front seats in pro­duc­tion.

TOY­OTA’S NEW AU­TON­O­MOUS TEST VE­HI­CLE

The Toy­ota Re­search In­sti­tute (TRI), Toy­ota’s di­vi­sion that stud­ies and tests au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, an­nounced the launch of a new test ve­hi­cle that’s equipped with the lat­est scan­ners, sen­sors and com­put­ing equip­ment.

This equip­ment once took up all the trunk space and roof of a test car. On the TRI-P4, it’s slimmed down enough to make the cargo area us­able. The roof sports what looks like a high-tech helmet rather than a col­lec­tion of bolted-on elec­tron­ics. Toy­ota will test the TRI-P4, based on the fifth-gen­er­a­tion Lexus LS, in its Chauf­feur and Guardian driv­ing au­to­ma­tion modes.

The Chauf­feur mode em­ploys full driv­ing au­to­ma­tion, es­sen­tially tak­ing over for a hu­man driver, said Ryan Eus­tice, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of au­to­mated driv­ing at TRI. The Guardian mode is de­signed to “am­plify” hu­man per­for­mance be­hind the wheel, not re­place it, he said.

UN­CON­VEN­TIONAL CON­CEPT VE­HI­CLES

CES is where au­tomak­ers’ imag­i­na­tions run wild. These con­cept ve­hi­cles have very spe­cific uses.

— Hyundai El­e­vate: What do you do af­ter a dis­as­ter when heavy de­bris blocks emergency ve­hi­cles? Hyundai’s so­lu­tion is the four-legged and four-wheeled El­e­vate ve­hi­cle, which will walk or climb over the most treach­er­ous ter­rain.

— BMW Vi­sion iNext: This is a de­sign con­cept that will in­flu­ence the di­rec­tion of the com­pany’s next-gen­er­a­tion elec­tric ve­hi­cles. In­side, it fea­tures some­thing BMW calls “Shy Tech.”These con­trol in­ter­faces are in­te­grated into the in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als and only ap­pear when your hand touches a spe­cific point. The goal is to cre­ate in­te­ri­ors that look cleaner and of­fer util­ity just when you need it.

— Mercedes-Benz Vi­sion Urbanetic: This con­cept is aimed at ride-hail­ing and de­liv­ery fleets. It fea­tures an elec­tric driv­e­train and switch­able bod­ies that can ac­com­mo­date peo­ple or goods for de­liv­ery. When equipped with the ride-hail­ing body, it can seat up to 12 pas­sen­gers. In cargo con­fig­u­ra­tion, it can ac­com­mo­date items on 10 40-by-48-inch pal­lets. The Urbanetic is also de­signed to be part of an au­ton­o­mous fleet that can be pro­grammed with ef­fi­cient routes based on a com­pany’s needs.

IN-CAR VIR­TUAL AS­SIS­TANTS AR­RIVE IN 2019

This is the year that cars equipped with vir­tual as­sis­tants pull into show­rooms. These helpers dif­fer from Alexa, Siri and the Google As­sis­tant by fo­cus­ing on ve­hi­cle func­tions rather than do­ing your bid­ding via a smart­phone or smart speaker.

The Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX soft­ware in­ter­face made its first ap­pear­ance last year at CES on the all-new A-Class sedan, which will be widely avail­able early this year. Now MBUX is back in yet an­other new car: the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA. MBUX will get a few new fea­tures, such as ges­ture-con­trolled light­ing, for its CLA de­but.

BMW’s an­swer to MBUX is the In­tel­li­gent Per­sonal As­sis­tant. It makes its first ap­pear­ance on the re­designed 2020 3 Se­ries and even­tu­ally will be fea­tured in the rest of the BMW lineup.

Both sys­tems use nat­u­ral voice com­mands to con­trol dif­fer­ent as­pects of the ve­hi­cle. For ex­am­ple, if you say, “Hey BMW, I’m cold,” the BMW In­tel­li­gent Per­sonal As­sis­tant ad­justs the tem­per­a­ture in­side the car. It can also serve as a pa­per­less owner’s man­ual, telling you how a cer­tain fea­ture works or pro­vid­ing cur­rent ve­hi­cle sta­tus. You could check the oil by ask­ing, “Is the oil level OK?” Or you could say “I want to re­lax,” and the as­sis­tant would change the set­tings on the ra­dio sta­tion and ad­just the cli­mate con­trol to ease your stress.

A MO­BILE MOVIE THE­ATER SYS­TEM

Audi is show­ing a new en­ter­tain­ment for­mat, which it says will trans­form a ve­hi­cle into a “spe­cial movie the­ater ex­pe­ri­ence.” For now, the sys­tem is de­signed to work only when the ve­hi­cle is sta­tion­ary, but Audi imag­ines a world in which the car is so good at driv­ing it­self that its pas­sen­gers will need some amuse­ment to pass the time. What bet­ter way to do that than to catch up on the lat­est movie?

ED­MUNDS SAYS: Fu­tur­is­tic con­cept ve­hi­cles and full driv­ing au­to­ma­tion are still years away, but cars with built-in per­sonal as­sis­tants will be pulling into deal­er­ships be­fore you know it.

Re­lated links:

— 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

— 2020 BMW 3 Se­ries

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