15 Jan 18

Smile to unlock your car, and other cool CES gadgets

The recently concluded 2018 edition confirmed that CES is turning into a serious showcase for automotive innovation. But this is Las Vegas after all, some car gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show are cool and fun first, practical later. 

All innovation starts as a far-fetched idea in some inventor's brain. Still, some of those ideas do become mainstream, while others linger in the weird and wonderful realm of could-have-been. Here's an overview of some inventions that could pop up in the cars of the near future – or not. 

→ Offline voice control

Panasonic has developed software that lets drivers use Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant to voice-control various vehicle controls, even if the vehicle is offline from the cloud. 

→ Smooth out your rides

America's ageing roads and highways are in urgent need of repair and overhaul, but until that happens – and it might take a while – ClearMotion has developed a solution. Having mapped the U.S. road and highway system for its defects and using cloud technology, the Tier-2 supplier offers an electronically-controlled in-vehicle device that counteracts the shocks and jolts caused by uneven road surfaces, smoothing out your rides. The application could be very useful for improving the comfort level of autonomous vehicles. 

→ Use your smartphone as car key

Forget physical keys – or even key fobs. Continental AG has developed an application that can turn your smartphone itself into a device that not only can rent a car, but also unlock and start it. This technology appeals to the rental car industry, and indeed Avis is already testing it. 

→ A car that can read your face

Startup company Mindtronic has taken facial recognition one step further, and uses Artificial Intelligence to create an array of expressions that can be used to access your vehicle. Quite literally, you could set the feature to 'smile' in order to open your car. But there's more: the Mindtronic AI application could get to know your moods, likes and dislikes, and learn to suggest appropriate activities or destinations. Mindtronic says it's ready to go into production with this gizmo, but as Automotive News suggests, it's likely that OEMs are more interested in the algorithms powering its product.

→ Spin your front seat backward

If your car is truly autonomous, there's no need for the front seat to face the road. That's why Faurecia and ZF Friedrichshafen have developed a technique that allows the seats of the driver and front passenger to spin backwards to face the passengers on the back seat of the car. All can have a nice conversation while the car proceeds down its path on its own. This feature was already used at CES 2018 for the autonomous EV crossover prototype unveiled by Chinese manufacturer Byton.

→ Check your safety in videogame format

ZF Friedrichshafen has designed a safety system check where every feature is summarised in a simple graphic, removing the need for the driver to scroll through multiple screens. Especially in cars with autonomous features, the videogame-like visuals (pictured) will quickly convey to passengers what's going on with their vehicle.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs