Consumer Electronics Show and the North American International Auto Show – Paul Fix III

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2013 Consumer Electronics Show and the 2013 North American International Auto Show

by Paul Fix III

Going to new places can sometimes be daunting, and conventions like the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS in Detroit) are no exception. This being my first time attending these shows, I was expecting something much different than the experience I encountered.

Shelby, Lauren and I arrived the day before CES, and spent some time walking the strip in Las Vegas. We ended up at one of the many convention centers that dot the desert city, attending a Ford event for the release of their Sync App-Link system. I think the product’s most impressive safety feature is the phone lock that activates when a link is established between the Sync infotainment system and your smart phone. This prevents you from toying with your phone while you’re driving; so even while you’re more connected than ever with a system that can read aloud your news, weather, and traffic (or you know, play your music), it simultaneously makes these activities safer.

The three of us arrived early in the morning on the first day of the show; we wanted to hit as many booths as possible as quickly as we could. This was a difficult task in-and-of itself, as the amount of people and booths were uncountable. We began by making our way through a massive crowd of people in line for their credentials and entered a private room for the Audi press conference. The room was large, and the seats few in comparison to the number of journalists. It got hot very quickly. I was surprised that there happened to be non-journalist there (I was used to going to “journalists-only” events) but it didn’t affect my experience in a negative way.

I thought that Audi’s new Piloted Driving system was impressive. Audi was the first company to get an approval by a state (Nevada) to test their self-driving and parking vehicles. And they’ve worked the system seamlessly into their design so that you do not even notice the cameras and sensors. It looks like Lexus is not too far behind with their own similar technology, albeit much more obvious, looking more like a Google Maps car.

Speaking of navigating, Garmin has implemented a new feature into their navigation systems. Now when you’re nearing an intersection, the GPS will not only notify you as to what street to turn on, but also which noticeable landmark is at that corner. For instance: “Turn left at the Starbucks on Baker St.” Garmin’s GPS is already in Uconnect, Chrysler’s infotainment system that won AOL Autos’ Technology of the Year Award. You can read more about that here: http://autos.aol.com/award/

Bang & Olufsen had a presentation in the Audi booth showcasing their new 3D sound system. There were eighteen speakers surrounding us in an oddly shaped room. The sound engulfed us as we heard the cars in the video drive by, almost as if the vehicle had actually driven past us. What’s new about this 3D sound is that the sound moves in all directions, so instead of normal surround sound, which can move forward, backward, left and right, the speakers allow the sound to move diagonally past you. This was implemented in another way in a Q7 concept, Audi’s SUV. This Q7 was outfitted with B&O designed speakers, all with beautifully simple aluminum drilled covers. There were three sets of tweeters placed strategically up the A-pillars and more throughout the passenger compartment. The MMI (Multi Media Interface) had a setting in it that changed the sound from 2D to 3D to 3D+, which completely immersed you in the music.

When we were all done with the booths we wanted to see, both automotive related and just for fun, we had only covered two of the seven convention halls. Less than a week later we were off to Detroit for NAIAS. While not nearly as daunting as CES, the Detroit Auto Show was an entirely different experience. Shelby, Lauren, and I (along with a few hundred other journalists) got to preview all the new concepts and technology before the public.

There were many new car unveiled, but I’ll try to hit the highlights. First was the Acura NSX prototype, which is now one step closer to being production ready. They estimate it will take another two more years to complete. As of right now, the specs say it will have a mid-engine hybrid V6 plus two electric engines powering the front wheels.

Now onto the sedans of the show: the BMW 4-series, Kia Cadenza, Cadillac ELR, and Mercedes-Benz E-class. The 4-series is, quite honestly, a redesign of the 3-series that has been rebadged. Does this mean a new 3-series in the future? We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled, seeing as the 3-series won’t be produced next year and replaced by the 4-series. Next is the Cadenza; an all-new sedan that is the most technologically advanced vehicle in Kia’s lineup. It seems as though manufacturers are favoring the smaller engines with good fuel economy and trying to get as much power out of them as possible. The Cadenza has a 3.5L V6 that pumps out 286 hp. The ELR takes a little departure from the common view of the mid-sized car with a luxury take on the Volt; at least that is what everyone is saying. It should be more refined and have better range than its cousin from Chevrolet; this will be one car I’m looking forward to test-driving. Finally, the new E-class has been totally redesigned and unveiled with all its options on the showroom floor: the coupé, convertible, sedan, wagon, and AMG Sport edition. The new look is stunning and, as said by Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler, “E stands for emotion, efficiency and extra intelligence.”

Many of the presentations were fantastical, from Ford lowering the Atlas concept from the ceiling in a hockey rink they had rented, to Audi’s magic show revealing the RS7, and Chevrolet rolling the new Corvette Stingray onto the stage. More coverage on some of these individually will come soon, and we hope to get familiar with all the new and exciting tech and cars that will be released in the coming year. Until then – motor on!