The car tech of CES 2015

CES is a big time of year for those interested in technology, as it’s a few long days in Las Vegas where all of the world’s best and brightest tech companies come together to show off what they’ve been working on. The same goes for car companies and there were plenty on show this year, with some very exciting technology that’s going into new vehicles and could go into ones in future generations. Some of it will likely remain as concepts and this year’s CES will be it’s only outing, but that makes it even more important that we capture it and remember if nothing else, how cool it is/was.

So without further a do, here’s some of the car tech that was at CES 2015 the may soon find its way into your new vehicle.

BMW’s laser concept headlights

This one has concept in the name, so don’t expect it in the next generation of vehicles or in any mind you, as BMW could ditch it if it turns out to be too expensive or difficult to implement. But if it does decide to give it the go ahead, our roadways could get a lot brighter at night and a lot smarter too.

The laser headlight concept that BMW showed off at the giant trade show was unique in several ways. Firstly, the lasers being used instead of LEDs allow for much greater brightness, shining up to 600 metres down the road in the case of the main beam and 100 for the dipped headlights. This almost twice as much as the lamps you have in your car at the moment and could make night driving a lot safer.

Of course though, as Spiderman taught us, with great power, comes great responsibility; you don’t want to be dazzling all of the other motorists with your ultra bright lasers. Which is why BMW has a built in system to detect other road users and simply not shine the light on them at quite the same intensity. That means that the extra brightness doesn’t dazzle other road users, as it just doesn’t shine as much in their direction.

It’s this fine control of brightness that holds all of the potential for these headlights however. As well as being able to direct the brightness away from other cars, they can direct it around corners as well, giving you much better coverage of sharp turns before you’ve even got there.

Beyond that though, the smart headlights can even shine information in-front of you that’s designed to do more than just illuminate. If there’s a pedestrian up ahead that’s difficult to spot, the software will highlight it and flash them with a coloured light, giving you and the pedestrian a warning to be careful. The same goes for deer or horses on the side of the road: you’ll know exactly where they are. There’s also the potential for projected directions in line with your satellite navigation and even custom projections like race grids, slalom courses and more.

Driverless Mercedes conference car

We’ve spent a lot of time here at Telematics talking about how the connected car is going to change the world. It’s going to do more than just make it less boring to sit in traffic now though, it’s also going to change how we see cars. If we don’t have to drive them, what else could we be doing?

We wrote last week about some of the possibilities of what a more connected car can bring, but it looks like Mercedes was way ahead of us, as at CES last week it showed off a future-concept of an automated vehicle that was designed like a high-tech conference room. Featuring four seats, a fold out table and lots of Tron-like styling, it was a stark reminder that the piloted car is going to turn the world of travel on its head.

It’s called the Mercedes Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion and it features some truly ground breaking ideas about what we might get up to when in our car.


Instead of a car, this vehicle is more like a mobile office, come study on wheels. It features four swivel sweets – that automatically turn to you when you open the door – and the space to talk or play games or have a meeting. It does so in comfort too, with plush cushions and lots and lots of leg room.

However, unlike a lot of automated vehicles we’ve seen, this one comes complete with a wheel, because Mercedes knows that for a while at least, taking your car for a spin is still going to be a fun thing to do – it just means when you can’t be bothered, the car can drive itself. That means parking itself and coming to pick you up too.

If you don’t fancy driving but don’t really want to talk to the other occupants either, there’s touch screen displays around the edge of the interior so you can choose your destination, plot the course so that it takes you past beautiful landmarks, find out information about where you’re headed, or just browse the internet and watch a funny cat video.

In making this car however, Mercedes has lost a bit of that friendly look that Google’s pod cars have. It could be a bit scary to walk in-front of this bullet-like car in order to cross the road. To make pedestrians feel a bit safer, the car has a built in laser projector which can beam a crossing on the road when it’s safe to do so.

Whether we all feel like taking leave from a robot to know when we’re allowed to cross the world is anyone’s guess, but it is an interesting idea of what the future might be like. Chances are it won’t be like Google’s Pod car, or this rather grandiose alternative, but perhaps something in the middle might work.

VW and Audi revamp the dashboard

While other car makers were redefining what the car of the future might be, others were reinventing the cars of today. The VW Audi group had a lot on show for both brands in its name. At the Volkswagon booth, it was showing off a new version of the Golf, called the Golf R Touch, which instead of using buttons, offers a bunch of different gesture controls to let you tweak things like stereo volume, media selection and other head unit related controls. It’s not clear yet whether you’ll be able to control other aspects of the car, such as temperature, wipers or lights with gestures, but the potential is there.

Some have suggested that gesture controls could prove a little dangerous in a car however, since the movement of the vehicle might interfere with accurate translations from your hand to the car itself. Also what happens if a wasp flies in and you swat at it, or you drop something and need to reach for it? How will that be interpreted?

Along with the gesture functions however, the new VW vehicle came equipped with a number of high-fidelity touch screen displays. The first was in the centre console, and gave you access to everything from Apple’s CarPlay software, to information about the vehicle itself – like tyre pressure. Other information like the time and your satellite navigation feed can be placed there too, giving you the largest screen with which to find your way with. There’s also the ability to chance the ambient light in the car, giving you a less stark background colour at night if you wish.

Beneath that display is a secondary touch screen for different in-car functions. Climate control and functions like the electric mirrors can be controlled from this one. It’s slightly smaller, at eight inches (versus 12 for the larger media/navigation one) but that shouldn’t impact clarity.

The final touch screen is the 12.3 inch one behind the steering wheel that replaces the traditional speedo and rev counter. It looks pretty typical, with speedometer and remaining mileage functions, but can be customised by the user to display in different colours or to show up different information to your preferences.

Over at the Audi booth, things are a little different. Ditching the idea of gesture controls, it opts for a more traditional interior, but one that’s revamped in a different direction to offer what it describes as a “virtual cockpit,” with a multi-media-interface that leverages Nvidia’s tegra line of processors to offer high-quality 3D simulations and graphics on a couple of in-dash displays: one behind the steering wheel and the other on the main dashboard, above the centre console. However you don’t control either through direct touch, but using a touchpad built into the centre console.

Each is customisable however, letting you fine tune your experience and if you don’t want to control them using your hands, Google Voice will be an option through the Android Auto software, or Apple’s Siri via CarPlay.

The big selling point of this new system though – which will come as part of the new 2016 Audi Q7 – is the optional entertainment pack that provides two HD tablets in the rear of the car. They can be taken out of the car too and used as normal tablets – just don’t get to replace them of dad will get mad.

Valeo and BMW changing up the keyfob

While Back to the Future suggested that we’d all have flying cars by now, we do have a lot of advanced technology and we’re gradually letting go ties to the old, more physical world. Keys, as more advanced as they are these days, are still somewhat of a reminder of the worlds of old, which is why a company called Valeo wants us to ditch them altogether, instead utilising our smartphone or a wearable to unlock and control our cars.

The idea as it stands, would be to use a bespoke smartphone application that has its own built in security to confirm identity, to unlock your car. Theoretically it could also be used to turn on the heaters, start the stereo or perform any number of other basic commands.


That sort of ability is already available with some select car makers however. Valeo wants to take it a step further and incorporate its technology with its own personalised smartwatch. The watch would give the remote-on and other functions to every vehicle, as well as letting you check aspects of the car like current fuel and location (for when you inevitably lose it). In the future, when automated cars are the norm, Valeo sees its technology being used to call your car to come and pick you up – just by tapping your wrist.

That’s all a few years in the future however. In the here and now, BMW is looking to impress with its i8’s new touchscreen key fob, which has its very own touch screen. The little 2.2 inch across device shows you your current distance to your car, making it easier to find in a busy carpark; tells you if your car doors are unlocked; how much petrol you have left, as well as basic service information that might require your attention.

The only kicker is that you will need to remember to charge the battery. If you don’t, after three months you’ll be forced to forgo all that fancy information and instead go back to the standard key and lock system of unlocking your car. No touch-screen details for you sir.

Until you go home and charge it.


CES this year was as exciting as ever when it came to new car tech. If we had to choose a favourite, it would probably be the Mercedes prototype for an automated car, as some real thought went into that concept. Of course it will never see the light of day, whereas most of the other tech discussed here will be available within the next couple of years.

Which tech did you find the most exciting? If there was something we missed, feel free to let us know below.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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