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Connected Cars Show Promise at CES 2017

img962097529 1483659905810 jpg Bosch neoSense | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

CARS.COM — Judging from the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, the era of the connected car is going to save you time, money and even help to improve your karaoke skills. Self-driving cars are going to be far more complex than four-wheeled robots that get you from Point A to Point B.

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They will tell other cars where parking is available, tap into the smartphones of pedestrians and bicyclists to prevent accidents, and even contact local municipalities about needed road repairs or power grid usage. And yes, they might even make you a better singer in the process.

Cars.com searched the Las Vegas Convention Center to learn why connected cars hold so much promise, and how they could impact your life in ways you might never have imagined.

Smoothing a Bumpy Road

“You’ll see more advancement in the next five years than you saw in the previous 30,” said Chris Meering of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Standing alongside a BMW i3 electric car, co-developed between HPE and IAV Automotive Engineering, Meering has no doubt that cars powered with artificial intelligence will improve everyday life.

This BMW EV features HPE’s latest Internet of Things software. The system is capable of monitoring weather and adjusting the car’s driving dynamics — such as traction control settings — to suit the environment. This data can be sent to the cloud to alert other drivers of any road hazards, such as standing water or black ice. The car could also tap into your home to turn on lights and adjust temperature settings once the system determines you’re due to arrive back shortly. This could save you money by not having to heat and cool your home when no one is home.

Why should I care? Meering mentioned that the intelligent BMW i3 at CES could also link itself to your local municipalities. Apart from a smart energy grid boosted by EVs that could feed power back at peak usage times, why would you want your car to start chatting with the town you live in? Meering’s response was immediate: “Potholes.” A connected car wouldn’t be limited to weather forecasts or pre-heating your oven; it could also read the road surface and later report any needed repairs to a city agency.

After all, even the smartest connected car isn’t going to be of much use if it’s stuck with a flat on the side of the road.

Car Cabins Will Never Be the Same

Electric vehicles and self-driving systems are pointing the way forward, but why are car cabins so firmly stuck in the past? BMW and Bosch both presented futuristic takes on how the upcoming move to electrification and autonomy will reshape cars from the inside out.

BMW’s HoloActive Touch is a 3-D holographic display that uses mirrors to create virtual buttons that hover over the center console and are visible only to the driver. Pushing these buttons results in a light pulse on your fingertip, created by a flat panel emitting ultrasonic frequencies.

Bosch employs this same touch-sensitive technology in its neoSense touchscreen. Unlike BMW, the controls don’t magically appear in thin air — we must admit, BMW’s system is incredibly fun and eerie to use — but the ultrasonic pulse has the same effect. The driver knows a control has been touched and can keep both eyes focused on the road.

Why should I care? The move to touchscreen interfaces in today’s cars seems like a modern twist on interior design, except they can prove more distracting than physical knobs, buttons and dials — especially if the driver is unsure the car registered the chosen command. Touch-sensitive feedback is a smart solution to the problem of keeping drivers focused on driving, not whether they’ve tapped the control for fan speed instead of a radio station.

img1923711546 1483659908409 jpg Bosch neoSense | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Car’aoke With Blackberry ONX

New technology can be intimidating even for the savviest technophiles. That’s what made the BlackBerry ONX in-car voice amplification demonstration so entertaining. Sometimes, folks, you’ve just got to sing.

The system is meant to improve sound and communication for a vehicle’s occupants. Background noise can create auditory dead zones, and the current push toward larger SUVs makes chatting with people sitting in second- or third-row seats a chore. Using strategically placed microphones within the car — in this case, a black Jaguar XJ sedan — voices are subtly and instantaneously digitized and amplified throughout the cabin. The driver can also choose which seats he or she wishes to amplify using a menu displayed on the center touchscreen.

The best trick of the system, however, is being able to program different voice effects. Len Layton, global business development manager for acoustics at Blackberry QNX, says that loading a wide range of effects — from Auto-Tune to Darth Vader — is possible in future applications. Your in-car singing skills could be about to get seriously amped up.

Why should I care? Call us highly amused and somewhat skeptical, but this system doesn’t make sense in a compact car or mid-size SUV. However, it could save parents (or UberXL drivers) from having to yell over the din of rowdy kids just to chat with occupants sitting in an SUV’s distant third row.

The quality and clarity of the system was impressive, with no perceptible delay that would create an eerie echo or doubling-up of a someone’s voice. And let’s be honest, the chance to catch a passenger unaware by using the voice of Yoda, or maybe Donald Duck, could be the most ridiculously fun time you’ll have in your future car or truck.

img 1967597451 1483739543819 jpg BlackBerry ONX in-car voice amplification | Manufacturer image

 

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