Connected Cars Dominate CES

At the CES conference in Las Vegas this year, Gary Smyth, the director of General Motors’ Powertrain Systems Research Lab, commented on how the auto industry is headed towards driverless cars. The technology for autonomous vehicles is years away, but in-car technology can help address the issue of distracted driving. The conference demonstrated how automakers are embracing connectivity and appealing to consumers with vehicles that are packed with new technology.

At the CES conference in Las Vegas this year, Gary Smyth, the director of General Motors’ Powertrain Systems Research Lab, commented on how the auto industry is headed towards driverless cars. The technology for autonomous vehicles is years away, but in-car technology can help address the issue of distracted driving. The conference demonstrated how automakers are embracing connectivity and appealing to consumers with vehicles that are packed with new technology.

Volkswagen showcased its new electric microbus, which features an “Active Info Display” interior that’s controlled by touch and voice commands. The Active Info Display screen is broken up into three sections that focus on different tasks for the driver. The Drive section includes navigation, while the Control section has vehicle gauges. The Consume section allows for smartphone integration. This section includes audio controls, and weather and calendar data. It can also display messages from smartphones. The Active Info Display knows who is speaking, and listens to casual voice commands, so if a passenger in the back of the car says it’s too hot, the car will turn down the heat where the passenger is sitting. The steering wheel uses touch pressure and haptic feedback instead of buttons. Even the vehicle’s side-view mirrors have been replaced with cameras.

Mercedes-Benz also revealed the concept of its new E-Class cars, which feature digital dashboards. The car’s dashboard has two 12 inch LCD panels, which are actually just a single long HD-quality monitor. The display shows virtual gauges that are configurable. The left half of the screen is designed for the driver, while the right half is for both the driver and the passenger. Both displays are customizable, and drivers can choose to display both vehicle gauges and a road map.

Automakers are also unveiling new electric cars. Chevy showed off its new Bolt EV electric car which will sell for around $30,000 after a federal tax credit. The Bolt’s range is about 200 miles on battery, and it is designed to be a ride-sharing vehicle. The car takes nine hours to recharge using a 240-volt home charging station, although the company also plans to offer a fast charging option. The interior includes an infotainment touchscreen and a camera display instead of a rear-view mirror. Mysterious startup Faraday Future debuted the concept for an electric car that’s been called the FFZERO1. The 1000-HP electric car integrates smartphones into the steering column, which would enable to smartphone to be the interface between the driver and vehicle.

With all of the hype surrounding connected cars, customers expect to see more technology in their vehicles, and they’d welcome more technology at a dealership as well. Customers will want to test-drive their new smart car, and auto dealerships can use mobile ID scanners to quickly verify the customer’s driver’s license and car insurance card. Customers will not want to test drive a smart car, and then head back to the dealership to fill out routine paperwork by hand. Instead of making their customers fill out pages of paperwork, auto dealerships can use mobile card scanning devices to quickly gather relevant customer information. As the auto industry embraces innovations in technology for the consumer, auto dealerships should also change how they interact with customers.