Cars took center stage at CES last week, just before the International Auto Show in Detroit this week. CES, marked the introduction to much of what is innovative in cars right now with traditional auto makers and startups alike lining up to share what’s new. Innovation appeared in the form of new electric vehicles, onboard software and apps, as well as services like ride sharing and driver assistance. The complete self-driving car remains fleeting, but signs of its impending introduction were everywhere. 

Ford, for example, “…will continue investing $4.5 billion in 13 new electric vehicles by 2020, the company will focus more attention on the transportation services sector, which includes ride- and car-sharing services targeted at Millennials, whose indifference to traditional car ownership is causing the industry to rethink its business models,” according to CEO Mark Fields.

Let’s start with VW, winning Engadget’s Innovation Award. The VW BUDD-e was awarded for the extremely efficient battery, able to be charged up to 80 percent in 15 to 30 minutes. The 101-kWh battery in the BUDD-e can go an impressive 373 miles between charges.

Some other car concepts

Toyota Kikai

BMW i8 Spyder introducing gesture control with AirTouch

Chevy Bolt EV - The long-awaited Chevy Bolt, which will bring a fully electric vehicle with a 200-mile-per-charge range to the masses at a price of under $30,000.

Autonomous Driver Platforms

Autonomous driver platforms are introducing technology that, over time, will make cars nearly impossible to crash. 

Nvidia Drive PX 2

Infotainment Systems 

Android Auto

Full Digital Sound

Clarion

Are we turning our cars into smart phones? Most people plan to replace their cars every 10 years or longer. Ten years ago, I was using a Blackberry… it’s hard to imagine that these in-car systems won’t accelerate the purchase and replacement cycles for new cars in a meaningful way. 

Finally, not a smart/ connected car, but a very interesting new vehicle - the flying car. Passenger Drone by Terrafugia

Some of most meaningful impacts to our lives might be seen in the partnership between Ford and Amazon. Announced at CES, Ford CEO Mark Fields took the stage with Amazon to roll out their shared vision to connect Ford’s Sync Connect and AppLink services with the Amazon Echo home automation hub.

The command "Alexa, ask my Ford for the charge status of my C-Max" spoken to the Echo tower was met with a robotic response communicating the current battery level of the plug-in hybrid and the estimated range. "Alexa, ask my Ford to start" would remotely start the car allowing the cabin to be warmed or cooled.

Once in the car, the driver would be able to access Echo home automation functions using the Ford Sync voice command system. "Alexa, turn on my home lights," or "Alexa, open the garage door," could be spoken to the system to activate connected lighting or garage door openers.

Other home-to-vehicle functions being explored include locking or unlocking the vehicle remotely ("Alexa, ask my Ford if the doors are locked,") stating the vehicle location, temperature for plug-in models and more. On the vehicle-to-home side, Ford drivers will gain access to any of the Internet-enabled smart devices (lights, home security, thermostats, garage door openers, and more) that are compatible with the Echo and Alexa, as well as services, weather reports, music and more. With the tap of a steering wheel button, a driver could be asking "Alexa, when's my next appointment?"

Timing for this launch has not been announced yet. 

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