Of the major trends at CES 2016, the one that generated perhaps the most buzz was the strong presence on the automotive front. From Volkswagen’s keynote address in the wake of its emissions scandal to the excitement around the secretive Faraday Future, the auto segment was where some of the most awaited and discussed announcements came from during the week.
From the start, Volkswagen was under the microscope, with its pre-show keynote Tuesday night addressing how the company is moving on from its emissions violations scandal. After taking on the issue directly, VW chairman Herbert Diess went on to impress with a display of new technology from VW.
Automated parking and driving and human-machine connectivity were front and center for every auto company present at CES 2016, and VW was no exception in their plans for their newest undertakings. VW’s CES highlight was the concept for the BUDD-e, a modern take on their classic VW Bus, which is planned to be a “zero-emission, battery-powered vehicle, boasting up to 373 miles of range on a full charge,” as well as significant connectivity using IoT devices.
Ford presented a keynote of its own, with CEO Mark Fields discussing the company’s plans to invest $4.5 billion in EV tech to bring 13 new models of electric vehicle to the market by decade’s end, as well as plans to boost its autonomous testing fleet. Ford’s 2017 models will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, with integration upgrades for certain 2016 models, too. The new Ford models will be tapping into deep in-car connectivity through the Amazon Echo interface, which will offer a striking link between user, home, and vehicle – whether that means checking if you need to fuel up from the comfort of your house, or restocking groceries from your car with voice commands. The new wave of connected vehicles is setting a new standard for a fully linked life.
Audi, which has already shown its tech leanings by partnering with NVidia to power its infotainment, has joined this wave, forging a partnership with chipmaker Qualcomm to push its connected capabilities even farther. Qualcomm announced this partnership at the show, outlining how the company will provide Audi auto-quality chipsets like the Snapdragon 602A to run infotainment features in some of their 2017 models. Qualcomm is branching beyond only infotainment in the auto sphere, though, developing technology ranging from onboard navigation assistance to safeguards like pre-collision braking.
On the mechanics front, General Motors wowed at the show with its 2017 Bolt, which is fully electric with a range of 200-plus miles and is planned to be the first widely available EV of its sort under $40,000. GM also announced a new partnership with Lyft, and is showing its chops on the connectivity front, as well, with its touchscreen MyLink system and with plans to equip 4 million vehicles with 4G through OnStar by 2016’s end.
And one of the breakout stars on the auto front? Up-and-comer Faraday Future, which – in spite of the whispers swirling around of its being a rival to Tesla – nonetheless managed to surprise attendees once its first concept car, the FFZERO1, was unveiled at the show. This electric race car is not just the product of automotive know-how: a multidisciplinary team with experts from the auto, digital, and aerospace industries worked to bring this innovative vehicle into existence. And its unusual lineage shows, in a concept that includes smart connectivity, driver-free automation, the ability to go from 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds and top 200 MPH, and unique design elements like a prototype safety helmet with oxygen and water supply.
From intensive connectivity that is changing the experience of driving to striking, space-age design that is shaking up what we picture when we think the word “car,” CES 2016 has shown us that there are some brave new places we’re going in the coming years. And it looks as if we’ll be getting there in full modern convenience and style.
Catch up on our CES 2016 coverage here on the Smith Market Blog.