Why are there so many cars at CES 2015?

    Talking Cars discusses the "car electronics show"

    Published: January 08, 2015 05:00 PM

    Jake, Tom, and Jon

    With almost every major automaker in attendance, perhaps the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) should be redubbed the Car Electronics Show. This special episode of our "Talking Cars with Consumer Reports" podcast looks at the high-tech automotive news coming from Las Vegas.

    Many concepts take the driver out of the equation, as automated cars motor toward becoming production reality. An Audi A7 named Jack (really) basically drove itself from San Francisco to CES. On demand, a BMW i3 can drive away, search out a parking spot, and park without a valet. A Mercedes-Benz concept suggests what people can do in a car when none of them have to be bothered with driving. We point out the irony of German automakers—all who spent decades marketing driver-oriented cars—are now at the forefront of writing the driver out of the equation.

    Alternative fuel solutions also were big news, with new electric car home charging options. Much like Tesla did with their electric car patents, Toyota has opened up their fuel-cell patents for free use across the industry. While this sounds altruistic, we point out that there's a definite business advantage behind these companies' generosity.

    As expected, trendy themes—you could call them gimmicks—emerged from the show floor. Controlling automotive functions through a smart watch was all the rage, if doing it from your phone wasn't cool enough. Multiple companies, including BMW and Volkswagen, highlighted gesture commands. Billed as aiding driver distraction, these strike us as Band-Aid solutions to previous design sins, like getting rid of volume knobs.

    Finally, several companies showed new infotainment systems that will hit showroom floors soon. Ford dumps their much-maligned MyFord Touch system for Sync3; our first look suggests that it's much easier to use and more responsive. Hyundai and Volkswagen showed systems that will incorporate both Apple's CarPlay and Android Auto. These systems demonstrate that even though automakers are unveiling plenty of tech at the show, there are still some things that are done better by the consumer electronics industry.

    Look for a new episode of Talking Cars next week, where we bring you the latest new car introductions straight from the floor of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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