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CES: Big car turnout at Vegas tech show

Switched on: More that 12 car brands were represented at this year's CES in Las Vegas with everything from clever LED displays, car communication and autonomous driving tech all on display.

Automotive presence continues to grow as car brands favour CES


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8 Jan 2016

WITH modern cars relying more than ever on complex electronics to remain safe, efficient and fun, the world's mainstream automotive brands are increasingly turning to the Consumer Electronics Show to show off their latest hardware and software.

Hosted each year in Las Vegas, the CES is the world's largest tech show, sprawling over three main locations across the city with the 2016 show experiencing the greatest automotive brand presence since it started in 1967.

Alongside the high-definition internet televisions, robots and smartwatches, more than ten of the world's most recognisable car brands had something to show off, from autonomous driving technology to an increasing focus on what some are calling “the internet of things.”

Audi revealed an evolution of its Virtual Cockpit high-resolution screen technology which is now curved, larger and has spread to the centre console, moving all climate and comfort controls to a large touchscreen in addition to the all-LED instrument cluster.

The German car-maker also showcased an innovation that takes the same LED screen technology outside the car and into a set of tail-lights, that can modulate in brightness and colour far more flexibly than regular LED diodes.

Even moving images are made possible with what is effectively a screen in place of regular tail-light clusters, and for the show Audi had arranged a mesmerising flame pattern displayed in the shape of the boot lights.

BMW was not going to miss the party and brought a doorless version of its i8 Spyder sportscar that can drive itself, communicate with other cars and buildings, and uses an evolved version of the company's gesture control technology to select vehicle functions.

In another i8-based concept, the German car-maker explores the possibility of a mirrorless car, and has replaced the conventional door and rearview mirrors of its hybrid sportscar with miniature cameras. The images are consolidated into one image, which is displayed where the regular reflected rearward image would normally be seen.

Mercedes-Benz made an appearance with a pop-up version of its Mercedes Me store, one of which will be coming to Melbourne next year, as well as a sneak preview of the information and communication system that will keep occupants of the next E-Class entertained.

Volkswagen showed up with an autonomous electric van called the Budd-e, which manages to go 533km on a single charge, and can recharge a flat battery to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes.

The car-maker also rolled out its e-Golf Touch, which previews a new large 9.2-inch touchscreen control system that will be finding its way into compact VWs in the near future.

Chevrolet used the show to roll out its first mass-produced electric vehicle and the Bolt, which can travel about 320 emissions-free kilometres and will be available for sale in the US in late 2016.

The little zero-emissions town car is expected to gain a strong following in the US but at this stage, the car is not chalked for right-hand drive production, ruling it out for sale Down Under.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced the fourth generation of its Uconnect infotainment system, reporting better performance and smartphone compatibility that will roll out in new models this year.

The car giant demonstrated the improved version of its system in a 2016 Dodge Challenger Pursuit police car.

While not attending as a standalone brand, exclusive British marques Bentley and McLaren still managed a presence at the show. Bentley teamed up with in-car-audio authority Monster to produce a Continental GT V8-based “Monster by Mulliner” showcar that is as pleasing on the ear as it is on the eye.

McLaren wheeled out a version of the freshly unveiled but already sold out 675LT that was created in conjunction with new Formula One partners JVC and Kenwood.

The car has lost even more weight over the already bantamweight production version with the use of revised interior materials and deleted components, while the cabin is enhanced with state-of-the-art tech such as a fighter-plane type head-up display.

Its standard steering wheel is replaced by the type found in its hyper-hybrid P1 sibling and its wing mirrors are swapped out for more aerodynamic cameras, that relay images including a rearward view to a monitor where a conventional rearview mirror would sit.

While South Korean brand Kia did not have a full new car it was willing to show off at CES, the car-maker did build some hype surrounding a new large SUV that is in the pipeline, using the show to announce that the model will officially break cover at the Detroit show next week.

Toyota was also demonstrating its advances in information gathering and processing with a system that uses more conventional cars to map urban and rural areas for use by autonomous vehicles.

Huge quantities of data could be farmed by Toyotas fitted with cameras and sensors normally used for city braking and lane-keeping technology, which is then sent to a central data bank where it is refined and collated into up to the minute maps that self-driving cars can follow.

Fellow Japanese brand Mitsubishi used the occasion to dust off its Emirai 3 xDAS concept car since its last public showing at the Tokyo motor show in 2015.

The futuristic topless electric car has widespread LCD and touchscreen displays dotted around the minimal and clean interior.

Ford rounded out proceedings from automotive exhibitors with a host of new projects that are headlined by a threefold increase in autonomous vehicle development that will result in 20 new self-driving cars.

Alongside the major initiative, its four smaller scale projects will develop vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, whilst nurturing a partnership with mobile communication service providers, as well as head-hunting a new generation of “innovators”.

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