POPSUGAR Celebrity

The Future of Auto? Hydrogen, Wearables, and Frickin' Lasers

Jan 12 2014 - 11:09pm

Ready? Get set, because the technical wizardry in the cars of the not-so-distant future are a go! At CES 2014, we got to marvel at all of the latest automotive tech and, while we couldn't take these geeked-out vehicles for a test-drive, we did get under the hood of all the new infotainment systems, wearable tech integrations, and more.

Scroll down to ogle at all the automotive tech coming our way, including . . . frickin' laser beams.

Audi — Laser-Light Headlamps

Five football fields . . . that's how far Audi's new laser-light headlamps will project. The small, aerodynamic lights are three times brighter than Audi's current LED system, thanks to a combination of laser high beams and a matrix of LED low beams.

With no weather impediments like snow or fog, the new beams of light can reach up to 1,640 feet. On the CES 2014 show floor, the new headlamps made an appearance on the Audi Sport Quattro Laser Light concept car [1], but the lighting system will be implemented in real life on the race track in 2014 in the R18 e-tron quattro.

Audi — Touch Scribe

Due on the Audi A6 sedan in early 2015 is a center console with tons of tech packed in. Typing in dashboard consoles has always been a painful experience, but a new touch scribe allows drivers or passengers to simply draw letters out with their fingers.

A small pad to the left of the stick shift recognizes the input, and predictive text makes searching quick and easy. On the new Audi TT coupe, the touch pad is built right on top of the scrolling dial.

Audi — Touch Scribe

Draw a letter B, and the infotainment system will recognize the text! Instead of having to tap your way through a keyboard, you can simply spell it out with your finger.

Audi — Smart Infotainment

The Audi infotainment system is one of the most comprehensive we've ever seen. Like most modern dashboard displays, it requires a data plan for the car. Once connected, the dashboard pairs with an Audi smartphone app that can sync information like music from Spotify.

One of the coolest info apps is the airport feature, which searches nearby airports and feeds data about incoming flights right to the car. A green dot indicates that the flight is on time, and a red dot indicates that the flight is delayed — so handy if you're picking up someone at the airport!

Audi's incorporating many other tech-friendly features into its future lineup, including a wireless charging pod in the armrest and an antenna wired throughout the body of the car to improve cellular service.

Mercedes-Benz — Wearable Tech

The German automaker is prototyping smartwatch integration with its vehicles, starting with its SLK-Class. Apps for both the Pebble [2] and Galaxy Gear [3] are in production.

Mercedes-Benz — Wearable Tech

The watch can display vehicle warnings like "doors open," "sunroof open," or "convertible roof open," like the interface shown here on the Galaxy Gear.

Smartwatches are intended to work inside the car as well, to warn drivers of upcoming accidents, road hazards, or severe weather. If there's no alert to display, the watch will just show the car's current speed.

Mercedes-Benz — Wearable Tech

Service information like tire pressure (shown here on the Pebble watch), fuel level, check engine light, oil warning, and coolant levels can also be detected.

Watches aren't the only devices that will be able to pair with the new Mercedes vehicles. Google Glass integration is also in the works. Door-to-door navigation is a program that will direct drivers to their cars via pedestrian routing with CarFinder, and then Glass will pass the destination to the in-vehicle navigation system automatically. After parking, Google Glass will take over navigation with pedestrian navigation once again.

Mercedes-Benz — App Connectivity

A new family of apps for tablets, smartphones, and the web called Vehicle Home will provide information about the vehicle, without ever having to check on it in person.

Once the apps are implemented, drivers will be able to remotely lock and unlock the vehicle and see data about how many passengers on average the vehicle carries, tire pressure, fuel level, how often the car is stuck in traffic, and the odometer.

Mercedes-Benz — App Connectivity

One neat feature demonstrated for us was a "Comfort" mode that pulses fans and warms lights to keep the driver awake for a set duration. Drivers can also set climate control to turn on at a certain time via the app. If, for example, your departure is early in the morning when it's cold, you can have your car warm up ahead of your commute.

Ford — C-Max Solar Energi Concept Car

C-Max Solar Energi is a sedan with solar panels built into its roof. Instead of plugging the car into an electric port, the vehicle utilizes energy derived from solar rays.

The concept was developed in collaboration with California-based SunPower Corporation and the Georgia Institute of Technology. On a full charge, the C-Max concept has the same range of a current C-Max Energi Production vehicle, which is 620 miles. But the Solar Energi only gets 21 electric-only miles. The car is woefully inefficient, but the proof of concept is there, and we're excited to see a company like Ford tapping into renewable energy technology.

Ford — C-Max Solar Energi Concept Car

The key to the Solar Energi is a concentrator Fresnel lens that sits above the vehicle when it's parked. It's essentially a giant magnifying glass that amplifies the sun's rays. Fresnel lenses were originally developed for lighthouses.

C-Max Solar Energi's tires are designed to move — on their own — in tandem with the sun's movements across the sky, ensuring that it gets the most direct sunlight possible.

Chevy — AppShop

Chevrolet is implementing new connected car personalization in select 2015 models, including the Impala, which we had a chance to sit in at the show.

Chevy — AppShop

The buttons on the dash are now bigger, so drivers can find what they're looking for with more ease. Using 4G LTE, the dashboard will connect with apps like iHeartRadio, The Weather Channel, NPR, Slacker Radio, location-tracker Glympse, and more.

Chevy — LTE Connection

Passengers can even take advantage of the vehicle's high-speed LTE connectivity to connect their mobile devices to the Internet. Perfect for streaming Scandal on long road trips!

Chevy — Limiting Driver Distraction

Features like text-to-voice and an integrated steering wheel remote limit driver distraction.

Chevy — Driver Dash Display

Drivers will also see a compact version of the infotainment display on their speedometer dashboard, further reducing the time that eyes are off the road.

Chevy — Mobile Devices Compartment

The infotainment display lifts up to reveal a compartment with a USB port for charging mobile devices!

Toyota — Fuel Cell Vehicle

Toyota is investing in the future of fuel cell electric vehicles with the FCV concept, which the automaker hopes will hit markets next year. In the car, hydrogen combines with oxygen to emit electricity and a water vapor, which fuels the vehicle. In essence, the FCV emits no hazardous emissions. It takes about three to five minutes to refuel the FCV.

Toyota — Fuel Cell Vehicle

The vehicle runs on hydrogen, which means that if Toyota hopes to get more FCVs on the road by 2015, the automaker will also have to invest in hydrogen-refueling stations. Luckily, California has approved around $200 million in funding to build 20 new stations by next year and as many as 100 by 2024.

Toyota believes that this technology is most feasible because it has reduced the size and weight of its powertrain system significantly while maintaining a power output of more than 100 kilowatts — this means that these cars could actually be affordable come 2015.

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