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Automotive Suppliers Demo the Future at CES

Thu, 09 Jan 2014

There is no shortage of cool stuff at CES. Just wandering around the 2 million square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center was like being in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory for technophiles.

For instance, just inside the Center Hall was the ginormous LG wall o' TVs, all synched together and blasting incredible 3D images that looked like a Beetles short from 1967. We borrowed 3D glasses and sat on the carpet transfixed by the imagery. "This is not about cars," we kept thinking. "You must go find car stuff you slacker/dope." But it was so cool. There were other TVs, too: 105-inch HD wall-plasterers, 110-inch Ultra HD building-obliterators, 120-inch luminescent carpet-bombers. And those were just the TVs.

But back to the car stuff.

On the second day of CES my true love gave to me... suppliers. The world's big automotive suppliers came to CES, all showing off technology to the world's carmakers, all of whom seemed to have come to CES to buy it.

Bosch gave parking lot demos of its automatic parking and emergency braking features.

Delphi rigged a Fiat 500L with its new onboard natural voice recognition software, which is clearer than cloud-based VR technology. The demo also showed Delphi's new seamless connectivity to Android, iOS and Apple phones. A Delphi-rigged Tesla demonstrated Delphi's radar systems that will pave the way to autonomous driving. Expect to see Delphi's Traffic Jam Assist in production cars this year, helping ease drivers through stop-and-go traffic.

Visteon's big tent in front of the convention center was packed with its next generation of cockpit electronics. The Horizon Cockpit Concept replaced knobs by creating a virtual map of your hand so that when you grabbed a virtual knob you could give it a virtual twist via gesture control. That was cool. The Visteon HMeye tracks the driver's eyes so precisely that all you have to do is look at an interface to let the system know you want to activate it.

A potential carmaker was there, too, though at an ancillary event outside CES called ShowStoppers. The Elio is a three-wheeled, three-cylindered, tandem-two-seat commuter car that could be yours for just $6800. Founder Paul Elio has a factory in Shreveport, 34 suppliers selling him parts they were already making anyway, and huge dreams of selling 250,000 of these things a year. We sat in an early prototype. There was a steering wheel, a shifter for a manual tranmission and there was plenty of room. Will it all work? “Intuitively I believe that this value proposition will sell,” he told us. “We're creating a segment.”

There's room for everyone at CES.

By Mark Vaughn