Each year kicks off with a bang at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, and every year more car concepts are showcased that are clearly worthy of being at a tech show... rather than an auto show. #CES2020 brought us some incredible concepts, most of which will never make it to production – but they certainly capture our imagination.
Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR
One of the most interesting-looking concepts out of CES was by Mercedes-Benz, inspired by the sci-fi movie Avatar, with James Cameron himself lending a hand in the creative process. This “living creature” of a vehicle called Vision AVTR (Advanced Vehicle Transformation) looks like something straight out of the future, complete with reptile-like scales and movements like a crab.
Its has a unique, standout body with clear glass doors and eye-catching wheels. The vehicle is meant to have a biometric connection with the driver; there is no steering wheel, instead it features a "multi-functional control element" that you put your palm on. It's powered by a 110kWh battery that is free of rare-earth metals and biodegradable. The vehicle can also move sideways (up to an angle of 30 degrees).
Honda Augmented Driving Concept
In line with its slogan: The Power of Dreams, Honda unveiled its Augmented Driving Concept of what humans dream of: going where we want in safety and augmenting human ability and curiosity. The result is a roofless autonomous-to-semi-autonomous roadster (with more than 8 driving modes) that switches can be toggled between manual and automatic modes.
The car is equipped with sensors to read the user’s intentions to shift between these modes, has no windscreen or side glass panels, making it easier for you to take photos as you weave through picturesque landscapes. If you pat the steering wheel twice, the vehicle starts; if you pull it, the car slows down, and if you push it, it accelerates. Who needs pedals anyway?
Audi has unveiled an "empathetic" self-driving car concept – the AI:Me (pronounced Amy) – that has a bunch of exterior lighting to better communicate with people on the outside, considering a computer will be operating the vehicle. So if you’re stuck in traffic, simply put on a pair of VR goggles to enjoy a virtual flight across the mountains and then you can return to reality when you reach your destination.
The car uses its intelligent functions combined with AI (artificial intelligence or machine learning) to increase passenger safety, wellbeing and comfort, and learns your behaviour over time to adjust comfort settings accordingly. When the autonomous mode is turned on, AI:Me's steering wheel retracts, and in its place, you get a wooden dash to place a laptop or something similar.
Fiat Chrysler Airflow Vision
Fiat Chrysler (FCA) has unveiled a fully-digital cabin with its Airflow Vision concept, featuring 6 screens for the driver and passengers to interact with, and unquestionably cool wraparound wheel-arches. The 4 front screens display the instrument cluster, climate control functions (and other info about the car and journey) and can be utilised to display various kinds of media. The passenger screens are customisable and can share information with all other screens.
Thanks to the plethora of touchscreen interfaces, the only physical buttons in the vehicle are the start button, and whatever functions a driver needs to quickly access from the steering wheel. The company says the interface is “safe, easy to use and understand” without being distracting. There’s no word on whether it will be a fully-electric car, but it is being touted as "a luxury machine with a calming interior".
Hyundai/Uber Elevate S-A1
Slightly different to last year’s 4-legged walking car, Hyundai unveiled an electric "urban air mobility solution" in partnership with Uber Elevate, the company’s upcoming air-taxi service. The S-A1 concept is fully electric, can seat up to 5 people (including the pilot), cruise at speeds of 290 kph at an altitude of 1 000 to 2 000 feet. This aerial ride-sharing 'copter will take off vertically, and can make round trips of up to 100-km in distance.
The A-A1 can be recharged fully between 5-7 minutes. It features smaller rotors to minimise noise levels in the urban areas it will operate in. Uber Elevate head Eric Allison hopes to see it in the air as early as 2023. Initially it will be operated by a pilot, but will eventually become autonomous...
Sony Vision S
The most unexpected announcement at CES came from Sony – the company unveiled an electric concept car called the Vision S, which was created to showcase the company’s technologies. The Japanese electronics giant has no plans to mass-produce the vehicle or get into the car making business, however.
The Vision S is equipped with 33 sensors for autonomous driving including LIDAR, radar and ultrasonic ones; has panoramic screens across the dashboard with touchscreens on the middle and passenger side, including access to media controls, vehicle settings, Sony entertainment content and games; and a 360-degree Reality Audio sound system with 3D speakers on each seat. Sony will test the tech on the roads this year. Read more here.