10 New Car Wins & Fails From the CES Show

Updated January 28, 2017

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Automakers brought out their tech for the CES crowd. Some of it was great, others missed the mark. We give you the winners and losers from this year’s show.

You would expect autonomous driving to be a big topic, but some of the most interesting tech to come out of the show are new concepts for driver-vehicles interface (fancy talk for dashboard). The other big news is the Chevy Bolt, which will be a real game charger. The mainstream media has lavished attention on the Faraday Future, which we find more full of holes than a wedge of Swiss cheese.

To read on, click on the NEXT box below this image of concept cars at GM’s Motorama of 1954.


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Win: Audi E-Tron Quattro

is a fully electric sport utility vehicle concept that can drive itself through traffic jams (that’s the kind of autonomous car I’m looking for – let me drive the twisty stuff, let the car drive the 5 mph bumper-to-bumper stuff) and find parking spots (easier some places than others). It has a futuristic dashboard that is full of curved AMOLED screens that replace the buttons and knobs in most cars. The car has movable panels that shift to make the vehicle more aerodynamic, and Audi says it can learn driving patterns from its owner. While it’s purely a concept look for the technologies to start appearing on existing models.


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Fail: Faraday Future

The team from took great pains to point out how far they’ve come in such little time (all the while offering backhanded comparisons to Tesla) and all they had to show was a nice looking body shell. They claim they’re reinventing the car development and assembly process but all their ideas are old and borrowed (GM came up with the interchangeable chassis concept in 2002). Where Faraday Future sees its future isn’t known to us, but if it’s to build a 200 mph EV, buyers in that segment would rather own a Porsche or a Ferrari. If it’s a compact car, they’ll have to beat a $30,000 car that gets 200 miles per charge and is serviced by 4000+ dealerships across the country. And despite rumors that Faraday Future is a front for Apple to begin development of its own vehicle, first, why bother, and second, if Apple were behind this venture, everything about it would be much tighter and better organized. Best of luck to you.


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Win: Chevrolet Bolt

There’s no doubt, is a game changer. It was a huge hit among attendees at the show. And at a claimed range of 200 miles, it puts it second only to Tesla Model S among existing EVs, leapfrogging the Leaf and “assisted” EVs in pure battery-powered distance. Furthermore, the Bolt has a spacious 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space, more than the Honda Fit. GM was light with the details at CES, preferring to hold back more specific information until the Detroit Auto Show. The Chevy Bolt will go on sale later this year.


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Fail: Ford’s SmartDeviceLink

It’s been a problem since electricity was first harnessed. First it was transmitting power via AC or DC and descended down to the VHS versus Beta videotape battle (if you remember that far back). So rather than all parties working out a common standard, we have Apple on one side, Android on the other. And right now they’re fighting over who controls your dashboard in the future.

So Ford has basically created a workaround: SmartDeviceLink, which  consists of two parts: a core automotive piece which controls in-vehicle services (and gets it out of the hands of Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc.), and a mobile proxy, which allows the various mobile systems to access and use services on the automotive head unit. There are two problems. First is, it would bet against GM adopting Ford’s standard, so it’s unlikely to be the universal solution. the second problem is that rather than having all these layers of connectivity, a single standard should be developed, which all parties have to adhere to, as otherwise as the capabilities of hand-held devices grow, major issues with compatibility are sure to be the result.


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Win: Toyota FCV Plus

In Toyota’s mind, if you’ve already invested in a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, why have it stop providing cheap, clean electricity even though its parked in the garage? The is a Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (like the existing Mirai) but is also capable of plugging into home electric system and taking you “off line” so to speak while the FCV provides all or some of your electrical needs. The cool thing is that any extra electricity you produce (beyond what you consume) can be directed to the grid, where you power company, by law, has to purchase it from you a prevailing rates.


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Win: BMW iVision

BMW demonstrated iVision, which is an advancement of the gesture control found in the 2016 BMW 7 Series. What’s different is that i Vision  interacts with the driver in a variety of ways. First, there’s Air Touch, a system that uses sensors to recognize hand movements in three dimensions, so that the gestures are similar to using a touch screen but without having to touch with the screen itself. Information is shared with the driver via three different screens: a head-up display, a three-dimensional instrument cluster, and a 21″ panoramic display. The Air Touch system can be accessed by both the driver and the front seat passenger.


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Win: Denso Dashboard of the Future

Denso’s dashboard of the future put the driver in front of a high-tech curved screen and the systems adapts the display to the operator. For example, of the driver glances at the entertainment controls and they pop up on the display. The driver can then make selections with multi-function controllers built into the steering wheel so there’s no need to take  hands off the wheel or eyes off the road (at least not for very long). The Denso Dashboard also includes live feeds from rear-facing cameras, eliminating the need for rearview mirrors. which is beneficial for two reasons. One is that cameras offer a wider range of view than mirrors, so blind spots are eliminated, and second, cars without exterior rearview mirrors are more aerodynamic.


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Win/Fail: VW Budd-e

Maybe it’s just because we just came out of the holiday season and my kids watched “Elf” at least 15 times, but when I hear the name Budd-e, I can only think of Will Ferrell. But that’s not the reason the is on the list. First, the good:  it’s a fully-electrically powered vehicle with a significant claimed range (we’ll see what it really is when it becomes a production model Everyone’s EV has a huge range when it’s still a “concept”). Now, the bad: VW teased everyone that they were going to (Microbus, Van, Transporter, or whatever you’d like to call it). Well, it’s not. Not even close. Dimensionally it’s pretty close, a little longer and a little wider, as you might expect. But to see any styling cues carried over you have to squint real hard and maybe wish just a little. Someone at VW missed the cache it would bring to the Budd-e share some styling with the original van.


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Fail: EHang 184

OK, not a car really, but think of it as an extension of where Uber and Lyft see their business headed: driverless cars picking up passengers and driving them to their destination. If you live in a city gridlocked with traffic, you might as well walk so the idea of a flying autonmous car does make some sense.

The E-Hang 184 is an autonomous, battery-powered, eight-rotor  drones large enough to carry a human being. The eHang weighs 441 lbs empty, can carry a 220 lb. load, fits (folded) in a car parking space, but has only 23 minutes of flight time.

Drones are okay with me for dropping off my tube socks order from Amazon, but personally, if I’m going to be flying in something, I want whoever is piloting the craft to have a mutual desire to survive as I do (not someone in an office building miles away).


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Win: Consumer Electronics Industry

The CES used to be about plasma screens and gaming but this past show over 100 booths were hawking one form of automotive technology or another. For the most part the consumer electronics industry (with the exception of those in the 12V business) have pretty much ignored automotive. What it means for us, the consumers, is that not only are all the great minds at the top automakers working on the problems of low- to no-emission, autonomous  driving, but now we have all the great minds of the electronics industry working on them as well. I guess I should have written that the winner was us.


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Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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