CES 2016: The Outstanding Car Tech You Need to Know

BMW mirrorless car

The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, which ran January 5-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, generated hype around cool new tech like wearable translators and yoga mouse-remote control combos-but it was the car-related news that really caught our attention. While CES isn’t primarily an auto industry event, many of the world’s major automakers headed to Las Vegas this year to unveil everything from in-vehicle tech to fully realized concept cars-and they really stole the show. CES is closed to the public without a high-priced ticket, but we’ve rounded up all the highlights for an insider peek at the best in current and concept automotive technology.

Big data will be used for all types of exciting things.

Coolest Car Tech “Coming Soon”

One of the most exciting tech developments to come out of CES this year is BMW‘s AirTouch. Featured in their i Vision Future Interaction concept—of which the exterior is modeled after the i8 Spyder concept—AirTouch is a control system created by BMW engineers that replaces every single button on the front dash. Instead of the usual dash controls, a 21-inch display sits between the driver and the passenger. With just the flick of a wrist, both the driver and passenger can control almost every function in the vehicle—from making calls to using navigation and controlling the temperature. Though the AirTouch was presented on a concept car at CES, it appears that BMW intends to make the tech available in production vehicles. During BMW’s CES presentation, Architectural Digest reports that Klaus Fröhlich, a member of the board of management of BMW AG, couldn’t say specifically when AirTouch would be available for consumers, but he said the company would “build it as soon as possible.”

Another enhancement we’ll see in the near-ish future: Toyota announced plans to incorporate a new connected car framework—which they call their Data Communication Module (DCM)—into their vehicle fleets, starting with the 2017 model year. The big data will be used for all types of exciting things, like an emergency notification system, advanced mapping, and more active safety features.

With the flick of a wrist, the driver and passenger control almost every function in the BMW.
BMW mirrorless car interior
BMW Mirrorless Car Interior

Drive into the Future with these Incredible Concept Cars

BMW’s Mirrorless Car: The latest concept car from BMW has cameras and a screen in the place of the traditional rearview and side mirrors. Video from all three cameras is streamed to a screen which takes the place of the rearview. As CNN Money reports, the three-camera system offers a complete view of the car’s surroundings, eliminating blind spots and obviating the need for mirror adjustments. Even better: warnings sound when dangerous objects are detected, and the much smaller cameras in place of side mirrors cut down on wind noise and resistance and actually increase gas mileage. It isn’t ready for production, as it would be illegal to drive in the U.S. where every vehicle must have a rearview mirror.

Faraday Future Prototype: The mysterious Faraday Future—a company comprised of former employees from the likes of Tesla, BMW, Apple, and Boeing—unveiled a concept car in Las Vegas last week (but still kept much of their company workings secret). The FFZERO1 is decribed by ExtremeTech as, “a Batmobile with electric power and curved LCDs.” The vehicle, says Faraday, is designed for the track, and can go from 0-60 mph in fewer than three seconds, with speeds that can exceed 200 mph. ExtremeTech continued: “The roof is glass, the instrument panel both displays drivetrain information and collects biometric data on the driver, and the driver can wear a helmet that supplies water and air.”

Volkswagen BUDD-e: Maybe you never thought you’d see a modern VW minibus, but the scandal-plagued manufacturer introduced a new take on an old classic at CES: an electric-powered microbus that ExtremeTech describes as an “auto show platform to show what Volkswagen is capable of in other vehicles as it builds its electric future (meaning it’s unlikely to see production). The microbus is decked out with Wi-Fi, multiple interactive displays, home automation, and what ExtremeTech describes as, “a thoughtful use of technology in a vehicle,” by which they mean the RFID sniffer that can tell you if you’ve left valuables like your wallet, phone, or purse in the car.

One Production-Ready Standout — The Chevy Bolt

While many of the vehicles displayed at this year’s CES are concept cars (that is, they are not market-ready, and perhaps never will be), the Chevy Bolt is an exciting exception. Chevrolet says the Bolt (not to be confused with the Chevy Volt), is an entirely electric car with a 200-mile range. While other electric vehicles might take hours to charge, the Bolt can recharge up to 80% in half an hour, and 100% in under an hour. ExtremeTech reports that the Bolt should ship later this year, and will be priced near $30,000 (after rebates). The SUV-like design boasts room for five, plus cargo.

Chevy Bolt on road
Chevy Bolt

Hot Topics in the Auto Industry

Everyone’s still talking about Faraday Future. Though the concept car the company debuted at CES isn’t meant for mainstream production, their recent $1 billion purchase of an enormous factory in Las Vegas suggests market-ready cars are in the company’s future. At CES, Faraday announced its partnership with China’s LeTV (which, as ExtremeTech notes, has been described as the “Netflix of China”). Without many other details from the company itself, the press has been speculating wildly as to what they’re working on—several national publications have even wondered if Apple is secretly behind Faraday.

A disappointment: the rumored Ford-Google partnership failed to materialize at CES last week, which insiders predicted would mean big things in the world of autonomous vehicles. But just because no formal announcement was made in Las Vegas doesn’t mean the two industry giants won’t collaborate in the future.

Did you attend CES 2016? Would you drive any of these concept cars? Tell us in the comments.