What Made CES 2014 Amazing: The Cars
By Rob Enderle, President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
Part of what made CES (News - Alert) amazing was that it was the most like a car show of any event other than, well, a car show. There was the amazing Corvette Sting Ray, the wonderful BMW i3, the really cool Audi technology showcase, the first commercially available self-driving car launched (yep really) and even the launch of a car positioned as better than a perpetual motion car.
Intel, NVIDIA and Qualcomm (News - Alert) were well represented behind most of these launches and the merging of consumer electronics and cool cars is clearly ongoing and what is resulting is amazing. Let’s cover the highlights.
Corvette Sting Ray
OK. I saw this beautiful car and my mouth dropped open and my brain went into buy, buy, buy mode. This is just a pretty car but what makes it amazing is it has a built in race tracking system. This consists of a camera and intelligence that records your drive on a race track and then reports it back (when you aren’t driving) like a review of a PlayStation or Xbox game. This is like the best of both worlds, you get the feedback of a video game and you get it from actually driving on a real racetrack. The car is pretty amazing too, decent power, an updated classic Stingray look, and an engine sound to die for. I saw this car at the preview and I was already drooling.
This Intel (News - Alert) backed car, I was all set to hate, until I drove it. You see I’ve driven a Tesla S and lusted after the i8 BMW electric hybrid and the BMW i3 looked like a car for wimps. But you know what? After driving it, I actually think it is a better electric car than the others. It actually accelerated very quickly, handled decently and, here is the thing, it was small enough to park and you wouldn’t worry about it. The thing about the Tesla is the car is huge and electrics are best in cities where there is a massive lack of huge parking spaces. The i8 is not only big but it looks like a supercar which means you’ll be sweating leaving it anyplace but your garage. The i3 is small, far more affordable, and because it is a compact, far less likely to be dinged or damaged if you left it out at night. So it’s actually a better solution and if you get a chance to drive one, you’ll likely find it better than you thought. The only thing was the seats could use some work in the lumbar support area as they were a tad uncomfortable.
Audi Tech Showcase
Audi was kicking a bit of butt at the show thanks to help from NVIDIA (News - Alert) and Qualcomm. NVIDIA does the graphics for the AV system in the car and the images, (I have an S5 myself), are wonderful. It is like having a high end tablet in the dash and you really appreciate it in the car. NVIDIA was showcasing a future technology that I expect Audi to pick up which virtualizes the dash in such realism that you can’t tell the metal isn’t metal and the wood isn’t wood it is rendered. This means at some future point you’ll be able to select between a dash that looks like it came out of a classic car, a car of the future, or, for me, a steam punk car just by changing a setting. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Qualcomm was demonstrating the connectivity side of the car and showcasing how a connected car could provide much more up to date information, steaming music more seamlessly, and connect folks’ tablets to the internet through the car’s Wi-Fi system. That was cool but, even cooler…
..was the Formula E. This amazing race car was doing donuts in the parking lot and will be part of a new high speed racing series to be launched. It looked like an F-1 car but you could actually enjoy the race without ear protection. Wicked fast, this will allow electrics to get the same kind of benefits gas cars get from races. I figure is Super Capacitors take the place of car batteries it’ll be because they are honed in this car.
World’s First Commercial Self-Driving Car
Granted you won’t drive this to work, it is more for riding around a golf course or in Florida by folks older than I am. But it could be ideal for those that are too old to drive and who are too drunk to drive a golf cart. You know who you are. The Navia is from France and while it isn’t the sexiest or fastest electric car, it is likely the smartest. And while it is really more like a shuttle, it starts us down a road where we can nap while driving. Granted I’m pretty sure there are a ton of people already doing this, but at least with this car they won’t end up in my trunk.
The Almost Perpetual Motion Car
Another really interesting car is the Elio. This fascinating little car gets 65MPG, can be licensed as a motorcycle for HOV lanes, and at below $7K is actually a better deal than a $13K perpetual motion car because of how frugal it is. It isn’t even bad looking (kind of looks like a car from the future). This could be really great for commuters who are spending way too much money on gas and watching freezing guys on motorcycles pass them in the HOV lane every day. Now they can envy your heat and comfort as they freeze their … off.
Wrapping Up: The Cars Were Amazing at CES 2014
I keep coming back to the Corvette and the i3, damn shame you’d likely have to pick just one as the i3 would be great during the week and the Corvette for howling at weekends. CES was just simply fantastic this year and the cars, well the cars made it magical.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi