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Cars take over CES

By: Autoweek on 12/28/2015

Details of the Ford GT will be unveiled when the super sports car stars at CES.

Twenty years ago Tier 1 automotive supplier Delphi brought a concept car to CES. That concept showcased then-futuristic innovations like collision avoidance, front and side sensors, keyless entry, intrusion sensors, anti-carjacking technology, cell phone integration and OnStar. Delphi will still be at the show in 2016, but now there are also 11 carmakers in attendance, from Audi to VW, and all have innovations aplenty.

In fact, ten percent of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s 2.2 million square feet of display space will be given over to automotive companies, either manufacturers, suppliers or the aftermarket. Why? Because people no longer buy cars based solely on old performance parameters like horsepower or reliability. Now carbuyers want connectivity, helpful electronic features and, someday, autonomous driving, too. Those are the things we’ll see when CES opens its doors Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas and those are the things that will drive automotive technology in the new century.

Among the expected announcements at this year’s CES:

The Official Show Vehicle will be the Ford GT, an inspiring choice, we say. Ford was the first manufacturer to take CES seriously and has had a presence at the show for nine years, longer than any other carmaker. Ford will introduce details of the electronics in the GT. Ford will also show off its latest developments in connectivity and autonomous vehicle research. The carmaker just got permission to test fully autonomous Fusion hybrids on public roads in California, for instance, and will certainly be talking about that. Ford says it’s all part of its so-called “Smart Mobility” plan to improve “connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.” Maybe they’ll even make Sync work better.

GM ceo Mary Barra will deliver a keynote address Jan. 6, covering GM’s efforts toward no less profound a goal than “Redefining Personal Mobility.”

Both Hyundai and Kia will show off autonomous vehicles: Kia will have the Soul EV and Hyundai will show a fuel-cell-powered Tucson.

Mercedes, which made headlines worldwide when it unveiled the fully autonomous F 015 concept car at last year’s CES, will show the Concept Intelligence Aerodynamic Automobile this year, or it may just show a real-time rendering of it. Mercedes could also show the more production-possible autonomous electric E200 and E300 vehicles. We’ll see.

Potential electric carmaker Faraday Future promises to reveal its first concept car at CES next month. The concept will be in production in 2017, the company optimistically claims. Faraday has already announced it will have a manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas to bolster existing facilities in California.

Toyota will debut a new map-generating system for autonomous cars. From what we’ve read it sounds similar to Google cars you may have seen mapping streets with roof-mounted cameras and GPS sensors.

In addition to adding gesture control to production cars, Volkswagen will unveil a new electric car at CES. Rumors persist that it could be the long-awaited electric microbus, which would certainly make everyone forget about the current diesel emissions cheating scandal. Of course, we’ve been teased with Volkswagen microbus promises for at least ten years. Volkswagen-owned Bentley will display a “one-off vehicle” of its own, though details are not out yet. Another VW brand, Audi, could show off a concept version of an A8 with autonomous driving capability to followup last year's A7, which drove itself from the company's Palo Alto, Calif. R&D center all the way to CES in Las Vegas.

Other manufacturers at CES will include BMW and Fiat Chrysler America. CES lists nine car manufacturers total this year, but if you count Kia and Hyundai as separate, which they themselves do, and if you add Faraday, you get 12 altogether this year, a record.

You could make that 13 if you counted electric three-wheeler-maker Arcimoto, which will show a tandem two-seat, semi-enclosed EV prototype called the SRK at a separate show in Las Vegas, but not inside CES. The semi-enclosed fwd Arcimoto prototype weighs 1023 pounds, has a claimed range of from 70 to 130 miles depending on battery pack, and has a claimed top speed of 85 mph.

CES will also feature 10 Tier 1 suppliers, including Valeo, Visteon, Qualcomm, Autoliv, Bosch, Continental  and, for the 20th year in a row, Delphi.

That’s just a brief preview of the show. We’ll have regular updates as they happen when CES opens Jan. 6-9.

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