8 Auto Tech Highlights From CES 2014: Car Gadgets Galore

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This past week in Las Vegas, thousands turned up and more tuned in to bear witness to the year’s greatest technology trade show, where exhibitors display countless gadgets and innovations spanning dozens of industries.

One of the more prominent industries at CES is the automotive presence, as each year car companies show off new technologies and concepts that they have been working on. From new modes of transportation to revolutionary technologies, virtually every aspect of automotive research and development is represented, from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to home thermostat integration. Here are eight leading stories spanning the past week at CES.

1. Toyota FCV

Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) fuel-cell ambitions are commonly known among automotive circles now, but Toyota is using this year’s CES to assure the public that its mass-market driven hydrogen fuel-cell car will be hitting the market next year. Not surprisingly, the new hydrogen powered car will appear first in California, and grow throughout the nation as Toyota rolls out the accompanying hydrogen infrastructure.

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2. BMW’s Self Driving M235i

Self-driving car programs are prominent enough now that it takes a certain something to make a splash — which BMW had, when it debuted an M235i that could drift, without any input from the driver. More importantly, the BMW shows the assets needed for feasible, unassisted driving in the real world. “BMW’s autonomous driving assistant is also intelligent enough to change lanes to overtake slower vehicles and then pull back in when the maneuver is completed — all without any prompting or action on the part of the physical driver,” AutoCar explained.

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3. Ford C-Max Solar Concept

There are already cars on the market that feature solar panels on the roof — largely to control the HVAC system — but Ford’s (NYSE:F) solar concentrator offers a peek at a potential system that would actually recharge the vehicle’s batteries, offering some hope that one day electric cars may not be forever tethered to a power cord. “In theory, the C-MAX Solar Energi could fully recharge itself without the vehicle having to be plugged in to an electrical outlet. Ford believes sunshine could power up to 75 percent of all trips made in a solar hybrid vehicle, though the automaker does not give a distance for those trips,” MSNBC said.

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4. Toyota i-Road Concept

Essentially a one-man personal transport pod, Toyota has long been experimenting with small, micro-forms of transit. The i-Road concept is one of the more fun looking ones, as Autoblog got to experience first-hand. The i-Road — which is electric — uses a computer to lean into turns, much like one would on a motorcycle; however, Autoblog reports that the experience felt more solid and substantial. “If you’re in a turn at a constant speed and press the brakes, the i-Road will begin to ‘stand up’ as the speed decreases; come to a stop in the middle of a turn and the i-Road will be upright by the time you’ve come to a halt,” Autoblog says.

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5. Chevrolet Corvette Performance Recorder

New for the 2015 Corvette, Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) will be introducing an option that will bring a near-professional grade performance tracker and recorder into the retail models of its flagship performance car. The system will allow Corvette drivers the chance to compare their laps, pull vehicle information — engine speed and gear selection, brake force, and steering-wheel angle, and so on to help Corvette owners get the most out of their new cars.

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6. Audi LaserLight Concept

The car itself has made appearances at a few different venues, but what makes Audi’s latest concept so unique are the laser headlights, which use a combination of laser high beams and a matrix of LED low beams, ExtremeTech reports. Audi says the laser beams can reach 1,640 feet, a third of a mile, or twice the range and three times the luminosity of the more traditional LED headlights. However, before they’ll see action on American roads, Audi has to clear some legal hurdles first; reportedly, BMW has a similar system planned as well, so the race is on.

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7. Formula E Electric Race Car

Starting in September, a new league of racing will make its debut: Formula E, similar to Formula 1, but with all-electric racing cars. Titled the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, the pictured racer looks nearly identical to its combustion-driven, the Spark-Renault is virtually silent compared to the buzzy nature of the gasoline-swilling F1 cars. But, being capable of 0-62 in three seconds, and with a top speed of 140, the Spark-Renault will certainly build on Tesla’s mission of altering the perceptions of electric cars.

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8. Audi’s Traffic Light Online

Red lights can be exceptionally frustrating. Fortunately, the engineers at Audi are well aware, and have devised the first system to help drivers more efficiently navigate around them. By using live and predictive data that is piped into the vehicle’s navigation system by means of Audi’s onboard wifi, the car will be able to calculate how long before the upcoming light turns green — and feed than information to the driver. “Local data sources provide information about traffic light patterns, and the in-car system uses that data and the motion of the car to predict exactly how long it’ll be until the green light goes red,” Autoblog explains.

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