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4 Automotive Trends at CES 2016

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas featured thousands of exhibitors showcasing their latest, most interesting technology products.  And continuing the trend of recent years, automotive tech has taken center stage as a key area of development for many companies.  At CES 2016, 4 primary trends stood out in the automotive space, offering a glimpse of what the near future holds for drivers everywhere.

1. Autonomous Driving Continues to Pick Up Speed

Just about every automotive manufacturer at the show had an autonomous vehicle on display, from the Toyota/Lexus Mobility Teammate Concept car to Ford’s Fusion Hybrid Autonomous demonstration vehicle.  And with manufacturers like Toyota pouring new money into autonomous and assisted driving research, there is no doubt that autonomous vehicles are coming soon.

To support this, many technology providers are rapidly developing smaller, cheaper, and more effective components needed for autonomous driving.  Everything from ultra-powerful on-board computers from Nvidia to hockey puck-size LIDAR sensors from Velodyne were on display, indicating that not only is self-driving tech nearly road-ready, it’s also going to come at a size and price point that fits seamlessly into existing production lines.


2. Electric Vehicles Can’t Be Ignored Any Longer

Until now, many manufacturers have been slow to embrace 100% electric vehicles for the mass market, but this seems to be changing.  Not only did just about every OEM have some kind of electric vehicle or concept on display, Chevy also announced that its new Bolt will get over 200 miles of range per charge at a cost to consumers of less than $40k.  Combined with Nissan’s recent upgrades to the Leaf and the secretive Tesla Model 3, competition in the mass market space for electric vehicles in heating up.  And on the high end, Faraday Future unveiled its beautiful all-electric supercar concept to the delight of crowds.

But it’s not just automotive manufacturers heating things up in the electric space.  Supporting vendors are beginning to offer additional infrastructure improvements and services, like Bosch’s latest vehicle charging units and ChargePoint’s networked vehicle chargers and new app features.  The combined efforts of all these players in the market are quickly making the proposition of owning an electric vehicle more appealing for millions of drivers.


3. Cars Are Joining the Internet of Things

From BMW’s iVision Future concept to Ford’s in-vehicle dashboard control of smart home functions, it’s clear that cars are quickly joining the Internet of Things.  Important to note, however, is that this is true in both directions – new vehicle dashboards are offering control over connected devices, but cars themselves are also able to be controlled remotely via phone and smartwatch integrations.  This includes everything from automatically pulling into and out of garages and parking spaces to sending smartphone notifications and pictures when bumped or vandalized.

As the Internet of Things continues to heat up and produce ever more connected devices, expect to see cars become more even more integrated.  Connected vehicles are quickly beginning to act as both a control point for drivers’ connected lives while on the road, and as a seamless extension of connected mobility while outside the vehicle.


4. In-Vehicle Interaction Is Evolving

Several manufacturers at CES were showcasing new iterations of their vehicle dashboards as well as concepts for new methods of vehicle interaction.  All-digital, customizable displays were shown by Mercedes, Jeep, and Hyundai, with several head unit manufacturers demonstrating their own “all screen” concepts as well.  This extends to mirrors and the windshield as well, with many demos involving information overlays on top of camera feeds instead of traditional mirrors, and heads up displays projecting information onto the windshield.

Screens are worthless if you can’t interact with them, however, so gesture controls are a new focus for many companies.  BMW envisions smart watches enabling gesture controls both inside and outside the vehicle, while Visteon plans to use in-vehicle sensors to enable gesture controls for head unit and dashboard interaction.  FANCI even took this one step farther with sensors that can track where a driver is looking to trigger menu actions.  Note that none of these technologies are wholly new, and most aren’t production ready just yet, so evolution, rather than revolution, is the name of the game inside the vehicle.


Looking Ahead

Based on these trends, it’s going to be a very interesting year for the automotive industry in 2016.  Be on the lookout for rapid developments as we get closer to maturation for many of these exciting technologies.

Michael Dorazio