Ces 2019 ground-breaking vehicles
From futuristic electric cars capable of moving on robotic legs to vehicle-to-vehicle communication for increased safety in an emergency, all the most impressive news from the Nevada hi-tech show
Diego Barbera giornalista/ Wired
Las Vegas – Which were the most striking vehicles recently unveiled inside Sin City’s stands, halls and large casinos? In recent years Ces has distinguished itself for the conspicuous presence of ground-breaking solutions in the automotive field and this year was no exception. Several intriguing concept vehicles, in fact, attracted scores of visitors and we chose the most original.
As if the long wait for the ultimate autonomous vehicle (L5) was not enough, out comes Hyundai with a science fiction solution. Called Ultimate Mobility Vehicle (Umv), this transformer-like car can deploy four legs able to walk or even climb any type of terrain. It may represent the perfect solution in emergency situations and assistance after natural disasters, for example. It is obvious that no official release date is available, if ever there will be one. Closer to our reality, another possible solution, called Automated Valet Parking System (Avps), introduced by the same Korean company this time in partnership with Kia, promises to offer a truly unique service. This would-be fully electric vehicle, if needed will look for the nearest recharging station completely on its own, and then search for the nearest free parking space peacefully waiting for its “master”.
BMW, on the other hand, came up with what could be a self-driving car designed for extreme passenger comfort, called Bmw Vision iNext. A roomy and comfortable four-wheeled lounge that after accommodating the passengers will put them at ease with large windows, enveloping seats that become one with the doors (without a centre pillar) and a minimalist design that focuses more on digital assistance than on screens or buttons.
BMW’s Intelligent Beam technology, can serve as both a reading light, a multimedia player, an e-book, a notebook and so on. In addition, the rear seats fabric is touch-sensitive and allows music playback with just a few gestures.
Byton, a Chinese start-up, unveiled a vehicle, obviously fully electric, with what might well be considered the largest screen ever placed inside in a car. We are looking at a 49-inch screen that provides a wealth of customizable information on navigation, status, driving modes and other amenities. The screen itself can be used by both driver and passenger with great ease, supported by voice interaction and gestures recognition, fundamental for safety and comfort.
Nicknamed "SIV" a.k.a. Smart Intuitive Vehicle, this car can sprint to 100km/h in less than 6 seconds and uses two 150kW motors at the front and two 200kW motors at the back. The entry level battery guarantees a mileage of 350 km, which become 500 with an extended battery. The SIV comes as a L3 autonomous car, upgradable to L4 or L5, for a starting price of about 40000 euro.
Not to be outdone, Audi presented its Aicon concept once again, after showing it for the first time in 2017 confirming the initial production date set for 2021. Fully electric and autonomous (no pedals or steering wheel) this minimalist, fluid and aerodynamic vision boasts a large presence of hi-tech solutions inside, four in-wheel electric motors and a battery pack that can reach 80% of its full charge in about 30 minutes. The German company has also designed a virtual reality entertainment system as already mentioned in preceding articles.
Bosch too, lifted the veils on its electric and self-driven urban vehicle designed with commuters in mind or anyone wishing to travel short distances in complete comfort. Easy to get in and out thanks to large glass doors, comfort is guaranteed by business class style seats with access to wi-fi for entertainment or work.
Next up Nissan, although in this case, rather than a car we may refer to it as a “solution” named I2V or Invisible to Visible which could safely be defined as a three-dimensional predictive visualization of what we can expect to find along the way. In fact, the I2V shows in 3D what we are about to find ahead of us courtesy of an impressive projection system, able to acquire information both from the surrounding environment with cameras and sensors and from a cloud. In addition, a virtual human-like assistants will make communicating more natural and effective.
Another Korean company, this time Kia, developed its R.E.A.D. system (Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving), developed in collaboration with Boston's MIT and Media Lab's Affective Computing group, which leverages an AI system that can recognize and identify the passengers’ “emotional condition” and offer a range of suitable on-board services and features.
Several additional solution were also presented by the likes of Ducati, Audi, Ford and Qualcomm all related to V2V communication through specifically created infrastructures that take advantage of data sharing schemes in case of emergencies. Safety is at the heart of the project, safety for the passengers as well as other road users, and the desire to take advantage of quick intervention times guaranteed by automatic systems.
Vehicles will thus be able to communicate with each other to increase safety, receiving real-time information on possible accidents, construction sites or other unexpected events just around the corner thanks to a network of connected cars and motorcycles and, when necessary, bypass the driver in case urgent action is needed. The system could even manage, autonomously, the right of way at intersections, if not respected.
According to surveys by the Society of Automotive Engineers, TomTom HD maps have been used by more than half a million vehicles of all major manufacturers. At Ces 2019 the company announced a new collaboration with Denso to use the software platform dedicated to autonomous vehicles in combination with sensors and radars for vehicle location and route planning. "Cameras and sensors are not enough to guarantee the total safety of self-driving vehicles," said co-founder Corinne Vigreux: "We also need very detailed HD maps able to identify the position of the vehicle with an accuracy of 2/5 centimetres.
Roadagrams maps, as they are known, will be constantly updated with crowd-sourced data and relies on TomTom's on-demand map reception system called Autostream. The latest piece of news relates to a collaboration with Delphi Technologies aimed at improving the powertrain system making it predictive through information such as speed limits and road gradients so that self-driving cars will better control all parameters, consume less and be safer. "There's no need to wait for level 5 self-driving vehicles," Vigreux concludes, "already with level 2 and 3 vehicles (partial and conditioned automation) our roads will be much safer