Category Archives: Auto, Cars, Trucks, SUVs, Car Gadgets

Car tech you can’t miss at CES 2015

Sync 3.0
Ford demonstrates Sync 3.0 in a mock Mustang cockpit.
Tim Stevens/CNET

Amid a show floor filled with big TVs, small phones and sundry other electronics, cars will take their place at CES 2015 as the hottest tech platform. Automakers from Audi to Mazda will be at the show in early January and, of the five keynote addresses announced, two will be from automotive leaders.

Ford CEO Mark Fields will be on hand to give a keynote address, where I expect he will show off the next generation of the company’s cabin tech, Sync 3.0. Ford set a standard with Sync in 2007, making seamless Bluetooth phone and personal audio electronics connected to the car. Considering this legacy, I am eager to see the next step in Ford’s infotainment.

Dieter Zetsche, Mercedes-Benz’s President, promises to unveil a new concept car during his keynote address. I expect that concept car will be the same REC 14 research vehicle that Mercedes-Benz will make part of its Detroit auto show display the following week. The term “research vehicle” may evoke images of a rough, unfinished body with odd bolt-on pieces, but Mercedes-Benz’s previous F125 research vehicle was a thing of beauty.

Dr. Dieter Zetsche with the F125 research vehicle in 2011.
Dr. Dieter Zetsche with the F125 research vehicle in 2011.
Mercedes-Benz

During the last CES, Audi gave me a ride in an early example of an autonomous car, which actually had to be rebooted mid-drive. But the company has been making huge improvements in this technology each year, keeping it far ahead of the pack, and should have something more refined at this CES. The company will show its impressive current offerings on the show floor, which include Google Earth integrated in a car’s navigation system and fully connected destination search. In addition, I expect to see a production version of the Android tablet designed for use with its cars, which was previewed at CES 2014.

Chrysler will be demonstrating its excellent and underrated UConnect infotainment system during the show days. This system not only offers a very intuitive user interface on a large touchscreen in Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep automobiles, but the latest versions come with a built-in data connection supporting a variety of apps, including Yelp. A Chrysler spokesperson tells me the company will have announcements around UConnect, which I expect will detail new apps incorporated into the system.

At the recent Los Angeles auto show, Hyundai demonstrated implementations of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, becoming the first automaker to show off both smartphone-integration solutions. I expect Hyundai to offer those demonstrations at its floor display. Mazda will also be on hand, likely showing off its tasty new Miata roadster and CX-3 compact SUV, both of which feature new generation cabin tech.

A number of automotive equipment makers have briefed me on their offerings for CES 2015. Visteon may not be a name known outside of the automotive industry, but the company makes many of the information displays found in today’s cars. At the next CES, Visteon will be showing its Fuse product, which combines instrument clusters, head-up displays and infotainment systems on a single platform, allowing for better interoperability and shared CPU resources.

Self-driving technology is one of the most interesting topics today, and automotive supplier Delphi announced it is working with start-up Ottomatika, the latter a developer of software that can make crucial driving decisions. Delphi will be talking about its latest self-driving efforts during CES 2015. Similarly, automotive supplier Valeo will be present, talking about when its self-parking technology might make its way into production.

Instead of new model launches, which automakers reserve for dedicated auto shows, CES 2015 will feature cutting-edge automotive technology. We will see the latest production offerings and, better yet, get a look at what technologies will be available in the next decade.

CNET’s coverage of CES 2015 begins on January 4.

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2015 BMW 428i Grand Coupe

Car Tech Video: 2015 BMW 428i Grand Coupe

2:59 /
December 10, 2014

BMW’s addition of a sedan to the sporty 4 Series has us wondering: what’s the point? CNET’s Antuan Goodwin gets behind the wheel to see if he can figure it out.

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2015 Ford F-150 ​ (CNET On Cars, Episode 55)​

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    CNET selects Tech Car of the Year nominees for 2014

    With 2014 coming to a close, CNET’s automotive editors look back at the cars we have driven to determine which should earn our Tech Car of the Year award. As opposed to when we began looking at cars for their tech 10 years ago, navigation systems and digital audio have become de rigueur. The high achievers these days include data connections and apps, along with advanced driver assistance systems.

    Drivetrain and handling tech figure into our selection, which not only means drivetrains with some sort of electrification, but also advanced suspension systems that offer more than a compromise between hard and soft.

    After considering our year’s worth of cars, we narrowed it down to five nominees, offering them here for your comments and consideration. Please peruse the list and add your vote in our poll. In two weeks, we will make our final selection for the winner of the 2014 Tech Car of the Year award, and present the Car Tech 10, a selection of notable achievements from the automotive world over the past year.

    Nominees


    2015 Audi A3

    2015 Audi A3 2.0T quattro
    2015 Audi A3 2.0T quattro S tronic
    Antuan Goodwin/CNET

    Audi spent a couple of years building up our anticipation for the new A3. And although we may have been disappointed at its change from wagon to sedan, the tech in this car had reviewer Antuan Goodwin tweeting that he “couldn’t think of any way the new Audi A3 could be better.”

    Audi used the A3 as a vehicle for introducing a 4G data connection into a production car, running neck-and-neck with GM for that distinction. However, Audi did more with that connection than GM, powering Google Earth-derived maps in the navigation system and other connected infotainment features. In fact, the A3 boasts more robust cabin tech than its higher-priced siblings. The drivetrain lacks electrification, but Audi’s turbocharged, direct injection engine proved satisfying and efficient.


    2015 BMW i8

    2015 BMW i8

    Tim Stevens/CNET

    BMW introduced both the all-electric i3 and the supercar-styled plug-in hybrid i8 as part of its “i” initiative, and the latter is the most eye-catching. Looking like a concept car that left the auto show floor and found its way onto the streets, this hyper-hybrid uses carbon fiber construction and shows a dual-nature that makes Dr. Jekyll look like the sanest citizen. Editor Tim Stevens noted the i8 offers “lots of great tech, both in terms of BMW Connected apps and driver assists, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most interesting new cars on the road.”

    Beyond the high-tech carbon fiber construction, the i8 comes with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine at the rear wheels, working through a six-speed gearbox, and an electric motor driving the front wheels. In addition, a second motor serves to smooth over turbo lag. It’s an impressive bit of drivetrain engineering, aided by plug-in capability allowing limited zero-emission driving.


    2015 Ford Fusion Energi

    2015 Ford Fusion Energi

    Antuan Goodwin/CNET

    The Ford Fusion Energi may not be flashy, but it comes loaded with an almost embarrassing wealth of tech features. Energi means this model is the plug-in hybrid in the Fusion lineup, fitting its advanced, electrified drivetrain into an attractive midsize sedan body. Even better, it is a very affordable car, designed for the modern family. Reviewer Antuan Goodwin noted the Ford Fusion Energi, in Titanium trim, was “flexible, fuel efficient and even pretty peppy when you need it to be.”

    The Fusion Energy adds an electric drive motor and 7.2-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery to its two-liter engine. With a fully charged battery, that means about 20 miles of pure electric range. Depending on your driving needs, that system can greatly reduce your gasoline bill. In addition, Ford offers an excellent array of driver-assistance features in the Fusion Energi. The car’s adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance are near self-driving. Automated parking technology is also quite good, effortlessly steering the Fusion into parallel spaces.


    2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid

    2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid

    Wayne Cunningham/CNET

    Infiniti has gone through some big changes in an effort to revitalize the brand, and if the Q50S Hybrid is any indication, it has a bright future. This car takes over where the G37 left off, revising that model with new styling and an exceptional tech load-out. Given the name, a hybrid drivetrain is obvious, but this car brings in new innovations for steering control, and even makes use of the navigation system to help the automatic transmission. Reviewer Wayne Cunningham wrote that “the car shows forward thinking on the part of Infiniti throughout, and makes important strides that should ripple through the lineup.”

    Drive-by-wire steering is the most radical feature in the Q50S Hybrid, but it leads to excellent handling and also enables a lane-keeping system that comes remarkably close to autonomous driving. The hybrid drivetrain creates a satisfying amount of power for the driving enthusiast, yet maintains good fuel economy even when driven hard. Infiniti introduces a new screen-based infotainment interface that proved very usable, along with app integration based on the driver’s smartphone.


    2014 Tesla Model S

    2014 Tesla Model S

    Josh Miller/CNET

    Little had changed with the Tesla Model S between our initial review in 2012 and our revisiting it in July of this year, but this car remains one of the most advanced production vehicles on the planet. This P85 Plus model gave a bigger thrill with its acceleration, and we were able to try out a Tesla Supercharger station, making the 265-mile electric drivetrain suitable for longer trips. Reviewer Brian Cooley says that the Model S P85 Plus “has tremendous power no matter what part of the speed range you’re trying to accelerate from.”

    Along with its pure electric drivetrain, which gives it thrilling speed and amazing efficiency, the Model S earns its place among our nominees for its innovative cabin. The LCD instrument cluster looks good and offers easily understood driving and power information. The massive touchscreen embedded in the center stack gets help from the car’s 3G data connection for navigation and music playback. As a bonus, in August Tesla unveiled advanced driver-assistance features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, filling a much-needed feature hole in the Model S.


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