CES 2015

6 coolest new car technologies racing to a driveway near you

Electronics mega show wraps up in Las Vegas

Published: January 10, 2015 07:00 PM

CES 2015 is a wrap. And everybody from the cab driver who brought me to the airport to my colleagues back home want to know what was new and hot this year.

It’s a fair question, but a hard one to answer with a sound bite. CES is ridiculous. The show is the very definition of information overload, with something new at every turn of its two million square feet of exhibit space. It’s big and it’s fun, and there’s an amazing amount of stuff to take in. That said, here’s my take on some of the more notable news from the world of automotive electronics.

Delphi demonstrates self-driving features on an Audi.

1)   Self-driving cars

Virtually all carmakers are developing vehicles with some form of self-driving capability, and CES was the place to sample their latest. Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and suppliers Delphi and Valeo all were doing demos of cars that can handle part or all of the driving themselves. And Audi and Volvo both say they’ll have autonomous cars in consumer’s hands by around 2017.

2)   Laser headlights

Audi and BMW both showed laser high beams that they say have double the reach of conventional headlights. They’re cool, but you can’t have them because they’re not legal in the United States. Automakers say their lobbyists are working on it.

3)   CarPlay

Its launch has been going on so long that it’s hard to believe Apple CarPlay still isn’t available in a new car, but the hype continues. Alpine and Parrot introduced new aftermarket head units compatible with the iOS interface, and Parrot’s is also compatible with Android Auto. But the automakers barely even talked about CarPlay. Like us, they’re still waiting.

BMW gesture control demonstration.

4)   Gesture control

There’s a fine line between cool new technology and manufacturers trotting out new gadgetry just because they can. Gesture control seems to be a good example of the latter. Using a twirling motion with your finger to raise radio volume as we saw in a BMW demonstration seems pretty high tech, but what’s the point when you’re twirling right over a volume knob? Some applications arguably make more sense, like Volkswagen’s hand wave to open a sunroof. Either way, expect to see more gesture controls soon.

5)   Heads-up windshield displays

Projecting information such as vehicle speed and navigation on the windshield is nothing new, but it’s still a good idea because it helps keep a driver’s eyes on the road. As the technology evolves, wider displays with richer color and capabilities have the potential to add augmented reality views and provide more information. Hyundai and Visteon were among the companies showing advanced systems that add lane guidance and even combine vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology to warn of obstructions or weather hazards ahead.

6)   Infotainment

Probably the biggest infotainment news coming out of CES is the first trade show appearance of Ford’s Sync 3, the replacement for the clunky and problematic MyFord Touch. The new system looks like a big improvement, being simpler to use and with faster response time. And Hyundai showed their new head unit, the generically named Display Audio, which dumps onboard navigation and a CD player in favor of better telephone integration. It is compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

—Jim Travers

Click on the image above to find all of Consumer Reports' coverage from CES 2015.

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