Often overlooked by the rest of the world’s auto shows is the annual Consumer Electronic Show held in Las Vegas. Though traditionally CES has been a platform for the world’s startups and tech companies to show off their latest and greatest gadgets, the automotive industry has quietly been making a bigger and bigger presence every year. 2015 is no different, and this year’s CES is set to be the biggest yet for the auto world.
The 165,000 square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center has become the place to be in early January to see just where exactly auto makers are headed in the next few years. And as technology and the automotive world have become ever more interwoven, it only makes sense that car companies would augment their presence there. “CES has become a major launch point for a lot of the big automakers,” said Mark Boyadjis, technology analyst for researcher IHS in Minnesota told Bloomberg. “CES is a way for them to get on a global stage for technology.”
That melding of cars and technology isn’t lost on the auto world’s bigwigs, either. Getting a chance to come face to face with leaders from the tech and software industry allows auto makers to keep pace with consumer demand, as well as shifting preference. “It’s a fruitful liaison between these two industries,” said Hildegard Wortmann, head of product management for BMW, according to Bloomberg. “My schedule is completely booked through in half-hour slots. It’s a very packed day and very intense, but very useful.”
So, what’s hot this year? As you may have guessed, a lot of new features focus on integrating wearable and mobile devices into vehicle software systems. Along with those advances, many companies are putting a lot of stock in autonomous, or self-driving cars. There are also a lot of new innovations in efficiency, including the incorporation of things like solar panels right into vehicle construction. Needless to say, there’s a lot of cool things to check out.
In order to narrow things down, we hand-selected five specific models that have people buzzing. Read on to see what they are, and what they’re doing that has the auto world excited.
1. Volkswagen Golf R Touch
Tech lovers, this is about to become your dream car. Volkswagen unveiled the Golf R Touch concept, a new take on a consumer favorite. Inside, engineers added gesture controls, massive entertainment screens, and even VW’s Trained Parking System, which will help identify open spaces and park the vehicle. On top of that, there are cameras trained on the driver’s movements to help engage vehicle functions in preparation for changing driving conditions. It’s a pretty advanced vehicle, and a huge step for VW toward the future.
2. 2016 Chevy Volt
We knew it was coming, and now we finally get our first look: the newly-redesigned for 2016 Chevrolet Volt. GM is putting some considerable effort into revamping the Volt, which struggled in sales compared to other hybrid and electric cars, mostly due to its high price and four-seat capacity. We knew the car would be getting a considerable price drop, as well as some augmentations to the technology and design. But the new aesthetics are pretty surprising; it looks as if Chevrolet took a page out of the Honda playbook when it went back to the drawing board.
3. The Autonomous BMW i3
BMW already did plenty to wow the auto market with the i3 when it was first released, but now the company is pushing forward by adding self-driving technology to the mix. Using 3D mapping rather than standard GPS, the i3 will employ a new Remote Valet Parking Assistant system which will allow the car to park itself — even in multi-story parking garages. The kicker? You can tell the i3 you’re ready to go using a smartwatch, if you have one, and it’ll pick you up.
4. Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury In Motion
Lovers of luxury, rejoice! Mercedes has put together a vehicle that is both innovative, and, well, ridiculous. The F 015 Luxury In Motion — which is essentially a meeting room on wheels — is definitely one of the more exciting vehicles at this year’s CES. The cabin area features four seats that can rotate to face one another, is loaded with entertainment and technology, and the vehicle itself runs on hydrogen fuel cells. Is this the future of the auto world? Possibly, but don’t expect to see it on the road any time soon.
5. Audi’s Self-Driving A7
If you haven’t caught on, auto makers are definitely betting that self-driving vehicles are the wave of the future. The final piece of evidence? Audi’s self-driving A7, which will be on-hand at CES following a 550-mile drive from Silicon Valley, is part of the company’s “Next Chapter” initiative. To demonstrate Audi’s confidence in the A7’s abilities, journalist test-drivers will actually be in the car, and behind the wheel, during its test drive across California. Is this the next step in Audi evolution? We’ll find out soon.