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CES 2017: Where driverless vision meets innovation craze

At CES 2017, Toyota unveiled its new "Concept-i" prototype. (Photo: CES)

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Julian Ebert
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As the show is once again in full swing in Las Vegas, some of the auto industry’s leading names have dished up their latest driverless gadgets – but one company stood out from the crowd. 2025AD has all the facts.

The Consumer Electronics Show is the world’s biggest tech event. And with driverless (safety) tech, mobile entertainment and car connectivity on the rise, it is no surprise that some of the pioneers of automated driving were among its top exhibitors. Announcements were made – and stunning new features and gadgets were revealed, providing yet another glimpse into the future when it comes to how we might use our cars.

Weren’t in Vegas to see the live show? Fear not. 2025AD was there to witness the spectacles and bring you a roundup of top news and revelations you need to know about!

Toyota: Adding that human touch to driverless vehicles

Carmakers are certainly tackling the driverless challenge at a different pace: but even though Toyota had first appeared reluctant to fully embrace autonomous driving tech (Level 4), they nevertheless revealed a concept car with self-driving capabilities, insisting that it will utilize advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a friendly co-pilot for the driver. Or “kinetic warmth”, as Toyota calls it.

As GeekWire writes, the new feature is designed to “nurture the driver-vehicle relationship”. Titled “Concept-i”, the car uses an AI agent named “Yui” that communicates with the driver via light, sound and touch, instead of a traditional dashboard. Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota, stated at the presentation that “Yui” will help build a relationship between driver and vehicle that is “meaningful and human.”

For example, it uses lights in the foot wells to indicate automated or manual driving mode. Toyota also stated that “Yui” is capable of learning, becoming more intelligent the more it interacts with a driver. “The most important question is this: what will the relationship be like between those new vehicles of the future and the people who use them? Will it be cold, robotic, sterile – are we going to build just technology on wheels and nothing more? Or can technology be warm, friendly, engaging, and immersive?” Mr. Carter suggested.

Can technology help our cars behave more like humans? Well, Toyota seems to be betting on it. In fact, A.I. is one of the key innovation fields when it comes to driverless mobility – to help increase driving comfort and road safety.

Audi and NVIDIA: Joining forces to push-start self-drive mobility

When it comes to the cautious, incremental level-to-level approach versus the all-in approach to putting autonomous vehicles on the road, Audi and NVIDIA are certainly hedging their bets with the latter. As an IEEE Spectrum report states, the two companies announced they would field a Level 4 autonomous car by 2020.

In a keynote address, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said that his company and Audi would be developing a self-driving car that will finally be worthy of the name. He was joined on stage by Scott Keough, President of Audi of America: “We’re talking highly automated cars, operating in numerous conditions, in 2020,” Keough said, incidentally adding that an Audi Q7-based prototype was actually driving itself around the lot next to the convention center as he spoke.

As you may have guessed, Audi will deliver the car itself including safety technology, whereas NVIDIA will contribute the “computational muscle” – as IEEE Spectrum labels it – of the vehicle’s sensor and camera vision as well as the graphics processing chips (GPUs).

The two companies have been long-time strategic partners and worked on multiple joint projects, merging automotive engineering and visual computing tech, namely in the Audi MMI navigation system and the Audi virtual cockpit. Audi has also announced the world’s first Level 3 car to hit the market later in 2017, which will also run on NVIDIA computing power.

Faraday Future: A rich man’s dream of a driverless car

And now for the talk of the town! CES is well known as a platform where the extraordinary shakes hands with the unexpected – and no other presenter embodied that spirit more so than Faraday Future. The Gardena, California based company – FF as it prefers to be known – has emerged from scratch throughout the past years, and has surrounded itself with an aura of myth ever since.

At CES 2016, it premiered its “Batmobile-esque” FFZero1 concept car. After subsequent mediocre reviews, it decided to rethink its approach to a driverless future – and their all-new FF 91 model is what they came up with this year. As tech mag The Next Web (TNW) reports, it may righteously be deemed a Tesla competitor, “an all-new, tech-tastic, Tesla-eating, electric car,” as Wired puts it. According to FF itself, it is the world’s fastest electric vehicle – and possibly the most luxurious one.

Multiple onboard modems ensure you and the car are connected at all times – while two aerodynamic antennae function as an internet broadcast system. And even if the FF 91 failed to perform as planned during its CES on-stage demo, the (reported) bare numbers speak for themselves: 10 front-facing cameras, 13 long and short range radar units, 12 high-performance sensors, and a high-definition 3D Lidar system provide basic self-driving capabilities, including a “robot valet” function where the car finds its own parking space.

Yet however stunning its driverless features, its centerpiece surely is the 130 kilowatt battery, slightly outperforming the best offering of its nearest competitor, Tesla. If we believe the numbers, this power block is not only capable of accelerating to 60 mph (100 kilometers per hour) in 2.39 seconds, it also boasts an industry-leading average range of 378 miles. Electric drive never seemed so close – but yet so far away.

Faraday Future may just have created the fastest accelerating electric vehicle in the world – but time will tell if their latest hit will save the struggling company. The firm has certainly proven that it has the vision and prowess to deliver a next-gen EV, but neither affordability nor road-readiness appear to be their strongest suit.

The CES 2017 comes to a close this Sunday, January 8. But be sure to tune in for in-depth event coverage and innovation review on 2025AD next week.

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