Consumer Electronics Show 2015 opened Monday morning in Las Vegas to throngs of the digerati hoping to get a peek at the latest technology trends and styles. Unlike shows in the past that featured connected gadgets and media, this year’s focus seems to be on the automobile as the ultimate connected consumer electronics platform.
CES 2015 promises to be bigger and better in every way compared to CES 2014, which attracted 160,498 attendees. That is a big statement considering that last year there were 40,828 international attendees from 140 countries, 6,575 media, 2,670 financial professionals, 15 elected officials, 8 top government agencies, 5 Federal Communications Commission officials, and 3 members of Congress.
This year’s festivities was supposed to be about Internet of Things, Apple Watches, Google’s Self-Driving Car, 4K televisions and Oculus Rift virtual reality visits to British Columbia. But it is passenger cars that are stealing the show.
Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Lexus, Mercedes, Toyota and Volkswagen, and Volvo and Volkswagen have stepped up their game. Automakers fully understand that as drivers and passengers turn over the steering wheel to a computer, there will be lots of captured time to go shopping or buy media.
Volkswagen’s Audi brand, Mercedes and Google driverless cars that are so smart they know how to obey speed limit signs and have been permitted to drive on California roadways since September. All three brands sent their “autonomous vehicles” across a state line for the first time to parade around at CES 2015.
Volkswagen’s high-tech Golf R Touch concept and its gesture-based interior control setup is a stunning display of just how close autonomous vehicles are to being sold to consumers. Waving your arm opens the sunroof and switches between different control sets on the dashboard display.
Audi showed a WiFi-camera-based self-parking function installed in a prototype A7 at CES 2012, and it has been expanded as a semiautomatic parking feature to some VW and Audi production models this year. Audi’s new “Trained Parking” incorporates a front-facing camera and software that can detect patterns in your parking. Essentially, the VW system can “learn” your driving pattern and prompt the driver to let the car perform the parking maneuver automatically, whether the driver is in or out of the vehicle. There is a smartphone app that instructs the vehicle where to go and park.
VW also introduced a feature for its electric vehicles that allows the driver to instruct their EV car to park itself perfectly atop an inductive charging pad that eliminates the old plug-in requirements. VW did not state when these practical features will be installed.
For sheer “wow factor,” the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion is a thing of ultimate luxury. The MB driver’s compartment offersa captain’s seat made of Corinthian leather that swivels around to hold a meeting or chat with the folks in the back during a busy commute. MB calls its autonomous system an updated feature to the “Smart Horse” of a century ago that “was able to smell the barn and take its owner home safely and autonomously.”
Since U.S. auto sales bottomed in 2009 at the low point of the Great Recession, auto sales have more than doubled to 16.92 million units and are approaching their all-time-high of 17.2 million units. If low interest rates and low gas prices last, consumers will have the extra discretionary income. The auto-makers seem ready to capture more of the consumer electronic sales dollars with very cool on-board electronic innovations.