Marc Saltzman, Special for USA TODAY Published 3:15 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2019 | Updated 4:02 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2019
Some of the world’s biggest car makers debuted future technology at the annual Las Vegas show. Marc Saltzman for USA TODAY
Between all the connected home tech, giant 8K TVs and robots, the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show didn’t let down automotive enthusiasts.
Many of the world’s biggest car makers exhibited at the annual mecca to Las Vegas, which serves as a glimpse into the future of technology, by dominating much of the North Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as surrounding facilities. And it didn’t seem to matter the Sin City event falls just a week before the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The following is just a small sampling of some amazing automotive tech coming down the road — pun intended — most of which debuted at CES.
Toyota Guardian 4.0
Toyota brought its latest self-driving car prototype to the 2019 CES, based on its Lexus LS flagship sedan, the LS-500H. Called “Guardian 4.0,” this technology assists drivers when an accident might “feel” imminent, by automatically correcting a drivers over-steering or braking. Over the previous iteration, Guardian 4.0 includes additional cameras on the sides of the body, two new imaging sensors, plus there’s also enhanced onboard radar and a lidar system, which includes eight scanners.
On a related note, Intel and Mobileye also demonstrated its solutions for a safer, smarter autonomous future, with a section of the Intel booth devoted to self-driving technologies.
Nissan unveiled its Invisible-to-visible technology — or I2V, for short — in the form of an augmented reality demo that gives a taste of what the near future of driving may be like. Essentially, the demo merging the real world with the data world. Its combs real-time data generated by roads, vehicles, and other devices, to help you out while behind the wheel, whether it’s city driving, on a freeway, or while simply looking for a parking spot in a crowded lot (with superimposed arrows that point to available spaces).
Also from Nissan, the 2019 Nissan Leaf e+ was unveiled at CES, which offers more range than its predecessor, now with up to 226 miles on a single charge (up from 150 miles), thanks to a new 62-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery (up from 40 kWh in the current-generation base Leaf). The new electric car also delivers more power with 214 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, up from 147 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. on the base model. No pricing announced just yet, but it will be available by the spring.
Mercedes-Benz also debuted a teched-out 2020 CLA-Class sedan, featuring its MBUX infotainment system and several semi-autonomous technologies.
Bell Nexus Air Taxi
A flying car at CES? Yep, but not an operational prototype, regrettably. But those who walked around the North Hall couldn’t miss the black five-seater Nexus, a hybrid-electric air taxi — with vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) ability – that can carry up to 600 pounds. In fact, Bell partnered with Uber to introduce Nexus at CES, as the ride-sharing company is expected to have flying taxis in select cities “by the mid-2020s” (we’ll see). Essentially, it looks like a giant drone with chairs but certainly had tongues wagging this week.
A strange sight took place outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center earlier in the week: a motorcycle riding itself around a parking lot. While BMW isn’t planning on developing this for the public, it was meant to showcase advanced rider-assistance systems that fuse its advanced gyroscope (to determine its angle of lean) with safety features like adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, and collision avoidance. This technology can also be used to help teach and train new riders.
Harman Connected Car
Not all car tech was about autonomous driving. Samsung subsidiary Harman showcased an in-vehicle infotainment experience of the future, seamlessly integrating the best of your smartphone with Harman’s modular system. Going beyond CarPlay and Android Auto, this high-tech interface leverages smart assistants (like Google, Alexa and Bixby) for accessing info like directions, speed, gas or battery level, mileage, and more, all in an attractive and intuitive manner (including QLED and OLED displays). What garnered much of the buzz was a facial-recognition feature that knows who it’s looking at and dishes up your specific preferences like music and chair or mirror positioning; this tech can offer augmented reality experiences, such as an e-mirror surround view and intelligent (and contextual) navigation system.
All cars have wheels, but how many have legs? Hyundai introduced its design concept for Elevate, a car-on-legs that may be able to find hard-to-reach people in an emergency situation, such as during a natural disaster. “When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot. Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete,” said John Suh, Vice President and Head of Hyundai Cradle, in a press release.