By Peter Gietl
I was fortunate to go to the Denver Auto show on behalf of Innovation & Technology Today, and was able to see some amazing cars. I jotted down a few thoughts about some cars I loved and trends I saw.
Mercedes Benz is trying to aggressively merge their roots of making some of the best luxury cars on the road, with some of the most advanced car technology around. They currently offer their drivers an advanced 3G hotspot that allows seamless streaming and Internet, while inside your vehicle. They also have developed the mbrace ® system, which essentially is a more advanced version of a roadside assistance program, and is tied into apps that you download to your phone. They provide such services like opening your car from your phone, valet protection, intuitive traffic mapping to cut down on your commute time as well as standard roadside assistance. Mercedes is also in the process of developing a driverless car, as well as DICE (Dynamic & Intuitive Control Experience), a system where with the swipe of your hand you can create a custom virtual dashboard.
The best looking car, in my opinion was the Audi A3. They unveiled their new 2015 A3, and it was a sight to behold. The A3 is a gorgeous car that is taking a step forward with automotive technology. Audi is trying be on the forefront of smart car technology, especially compared to their main competitors, BMW and Mercedes, by integrating a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot into the car. With this feature, passengers will be able to stream online content, check their email or watch YouTube videos. They have also integrated Google Maps and Google voice into the car. This allows for an easy to use navigation system that can seamlessly sync with voice commands. They have also used an app to allow the driver to manage the technology in the car as well as connect to online radio stations.
The first car I actually sat in at the show was fascinating. The 2014 Cadillac ELR is a fully electric car that hopes to bridge the current electric technology with the lack of electric charging stations. The car has an electric engine that provides quick acceleration, as well as the benefits and limitations of a standard electric motor. However, the truly innovative aspect of the ELR is the back up gas-powered motor; instead of a hybrid that can switch between electric or gas, a standard gas motor actually charges the electric components. This allows for an unlimited range for the car, instead of having to recharge the battery during a road trip. If this technology is successful, I think it can be a big step towards alleviating some of the objections the public still has for electric vehicles. They also have adopted a digital screen for the speedometer and odometer compared to the standard analog versions in most cars
The other two companies that I checked out were Lexus and Infinite. They took a decidedly different approach to integrating technology into their vehicles. While trying to have as much technology as possible to enhance the driving experience, it seemed clear that their prerogative was more centered towards durability, rather than being the most cutting edge.
The new Lexus models are trying to strive to bring a lot of the technological amenities that a driver would need while staying true to the ethos of the company. They provide the standard Bluetooth capability to sync with your mobile device. In addition to advanced navigation features, they offer integrated controls for smart devices into the steering wheel. When I discussed the possibility of a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot they said that it was in development. However, they brought up that they are reluctant to introduce new technology until they are sure that it will pass the quality and durability standards that the brand espouses, and will still function years after the car is purchased. Infinite, expressed similar sentiments about wanting to be sure the technology is functional before putting it in their cars. The person I talked with also expressed that they strive to put the majority of their technological expertise into how the cars perform rather than new, user-friendly gadgets.
This is a microcosm of what car companies are asking themselves presently. Do we try to employ the most cutting edge technology or do we wait to find out whether it’s functional and can hold up, yet risk being left behind by certain technologies? Do we invest heavily in the research required for hybrids and electrics or try to find a middle ground? Only time will tell which will win out.
If all else fails, you can always purchase a Hyundai with the most advanced zombie fighting technology on the road.