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There were a few notable debuts at last month’s Detroit Motor Show – but by and large the connected car world divulged its secrets at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, says TU-Automotive’s Andrew Tolve
The motoring spotlight shifted in January from Las Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Show to Detroit and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) – only many carmakers didn’t make the journey with it.
The list of absentees at this year’s event in Detroit was sizeable and the event in general lacked the razzmatazz that connected cars commanded back in Vegas.
Volkswagen was arguably the star of the show with its ID Buzz. The car is an all-electric reinvention of the brand’s Microbus, which gained iconic status during the hippie era in the 1960s.
The Buzz features LiDAR on the roof to enable autonomous driving and it has twin electric engines, one up front and a second at the back, which provide an impressive claimed range of over 600km per charge.
Volkswagen is keeping mum on whether the concept will be built but pundits believe it could be a fixture of the company’s new ride-sharing initiative, Moia.
Audi captured attention, too, with its flashy Q8 concept. The plug-in hybrid sports a virtual cockpit complete with 3D mapping and a contact analogue head-up display (HUD).
The display projects information onto the windshield in the driver’s direct field of view – a navigation arrow, for example, appears in the same position as an actual arrow on the road, an intelligent application of augmented reality. Notifications from the driver assistance systems also merge the virtual and physical worlds. Expect a production model based on the concept in 2018.
Honda showed off a revamped Odyssey minivan with technology especially configured for parents. The interior features CabinWatch, which lets moms and dads spy on their offspring thanks to a backseat cam with a live feed projected onto the dashboard.
There’s also CabinTalk, which acts like a megaphone for a parent’s voice – it even cuts through headphone jacks – and a rear seat entertainment system that includes an app that tracks the minivan’s location in relation to its destination so kids know exactly how long it will be until they arrive. Brilliant!
Toyota announced the third generation of its telematics platform, Entune 3.0. The platform includes Dynamic Navigation, which continuously analyses a six-kilometre-square- grid around the vehicle. Any roads or points of interest that are on the database in Toyota’s Smart Centre but not in the on-board map will automatically be displayed on the head unit.
Also, the system incorporates Dynamic Voice Recognition, which processes voice commands at the Smart Centre using a larger, more powerful database to help to overcome problems regarding pronunciation and accents.
On the autonomous drive front, Nexteer Automotive and Continental announced that they were partnering in a venture to create the best integrated systems for longitudinal and lateral motion control of self-drive cars.
And Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, the world’s largest supplier of automotive interiors, unveiled a vehicle interior concept that allows the cockpit of a self-driving car to morph from one seating arrangement to another, based upon who’s inside and what they want to do.
There’s a meeting mode, where the driver seat moves to the back of the vehicle, while the passenger seat moves forward and rotates 180 degrees allowing occupants to face each other. There’s also a family mode, where all four seats rotate to enable joint activities like game playing and movie watching, and a lounge mode, where the front seats move to the rearmost position to allow for maximum relaxation.
Finally, Nissan announced that this month it intends to hit London’s streets with real-world demonstrations of autonomous driving cars – a first for the company on public roads in Europe. The vehicles will be specially equipped, all-electric Nissan Leafs.
The demonstrations follow on the heels of Nissan’s recent announcement that its new Leaf will feature autonomous drive technology to enable single lane autonomous driving on motorways.