Weekly Brief: connected car snubs Detroit in favour of Vegas

There were a few notable debuts last week at NAIAS but by and large the connected car left its secrets in Las Vegas. Andrew Tolve reports.

The spotlight shifted from Las Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Show to Detroit and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), only many carmakers didn’t make the journey with it. The list of absentees at this year’s event was sizeable (everyone from Porsche and Tesla to Jaguar and Land Rover) and the event in general lacked the buzz that connected cars commanded back in Vegas.

Volkswagen was arguably the star of the show with its VW I.D. Buzz. The car is an all-electric reinvention of the VW Microbus, which gained iconic status during the hippie generation in the 1960s. The I.D. Buzz has LiDAR on the roof to enable autonomous driving and it has twin electric engines, one up front and a second in the back, which provide an impressive claimed range of 400 miles per charge. VW is keeping mum on whether this concept will be built but pundits believe it could be a fixture of VW’s new ridesharing company Moia.

Audi captured attention, too, with its flashy Q8 Concept. The plug-in hybrid sports a virtual cockpit complete with 3D mapping and a contact analogue head-up display (HUD). The display projects information onto the windshield in the driver’s direct field of view. A navigation arrow, for example, appears in the same position as an actual arrow on the road – an intelligent application of augmented reality. The notifications from the driver assistance systems also merge the virtual and physical worlds. Expect a production model based on the Q8 in 2018.

Honda showed off a revamped Odyssey minivan with a digital interior specially laid out for the Odyssey’s target customer: parents. The cabin now features CabinWatch, which lets parents spy on their kids thanks to a backseat cam with a live feed projected onto the dashboard. There’s also CabinTalk, which acts like a megaphone for a parent’s voice (it even cuts through headphone jacks) and a rear seat entertainment system that includes a "How Much Farther App" that tracks the minivan’s location in relation to its destination. Brilliant!

Ford debuted the newest generation of its best-selling truck, the F-150, now complete with advanced driver assistance systems like Pre-Collision Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Pedestrian Detection. It also comes with a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot.

Toyota announced that the third generation of its telematics platform, Entune 3.0, will debut on the 2018 Toyota Camry. The platform includes Dynamic Navigation, which continuously analyses a four-square-mile grid around the vehicle.  Any roads or points of interest that are on the database in Toyota’s Smart Centre but not in the on-board map will automatically be displayed on the head unit. Entune 3.0 on the Camry will also include Dynamic Voice Recognition, which processes voice commands at the Smart Centre to verify the words spoken in a larger, more powerful database.

Nexteer Automotive and Continental are partnering up on automated driving. The two announced a joint venture at NAIAS that will combine Nexteer's advanced steering and driver assistance technologies with Continental's portfolio of automated driving and advanced braking technologies. The goal is to create the best integrated systems for longitudinal and lateral motion control for automated driving applications.

Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, the world's largest supplier of automotive interiors, unveiled a vehicle interior concept that allows the cockpit of a self-driving car to morph from one seating arrangement to another, based upon who’s inside and what they want to do. There’s a meeting mode, where the driver seat moves to the back of the vehicle, while the passenger seat moves forward and rotates 180 degrees allowing occupants to face each other. There’s also a family mode, where all four seats rotate to enable joint activities like game playing and movie watching, and a lounge mode, where the front seats move to the rearmost position to allow for maximum relaxation.

Finally, Nissan announced that it will hit the streets of London in February with real-world demonstrations of autonomous driving cars — a first for the company on public roads in Europe. The vehicles will be specially equipped, all-electric Nissan LEAFs. The demonstrations follow on the heels of Nissan’s recent announcement that the new Nissan LEAF will feature autonomous drive technology to enable single lane autonomous driving on motorways.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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