My family and I were re-watching the Back to the Future movies over the holidays, and the question came up again, “When we will finally have flying cars?” I found myself “into the future” the following week attending CES in Las Vegas. While there are no flying cars yet, there are active tests going on now for Uber-type helicopters and other flying vehicles. BMW showcased a car that can change its exterior color in a matter of seconds. Want something to match your outfit? No problem!
Overall, the innovations I saw at CES blow Back to the Future out of the water, and much of that creativity seems to be coming from the willingness of automotive and tech companies to work together.
Some of the most exciting advancements showcased at CES were around the Electric Vehicle (EV) evolution and convergence among industry partners. For example:
- Sony Honda Mobility is rolling out a new EV prototype called Afeela, a new partnership that offers 3D graphics made using the Unreal Engine from Epic Games, creators of Fortnite. Qualcomm tech is also part of this, adding its Snapdragon Digital Chassis that integrates telematics, connectivity, driver assistance and autonomy. Imagine how that digital display bumper might affect the future of road rage or flirting with someone in traffic?
- The long-range power of EV is a major issue for consumers so anything that saves energy is critical to design. That is why the ZF Heat Belt is cool. Heated seats are more energy efficient than using heat in a car, so ZF, an automotive parts supplier best known for gearboxes, created heated seat belts that don’t draw much energy from a battery. We all wear seat belts for safety, but now they can keep us toasty, too.
- HTC Vive Flow is working with the Audi spinoff, Holoride, to develop technology that lets kiddos become immersed in a virtual world from the backseat that mimics the movement of the vehicle. I remember how peaceful long car trips became with the addition of DVD players in the minivan, so I’m keeping an open mind, while also feeling just a bit of motion sickness thinking about this one.
So with all due respect to Robert Zemeckis and the creative team behind Back to the Future, their future predictions seem a bit tame for what is here or just around the corner in 2023. I learned a lot at CES this year, but the biggest takeaway was seeing how automotive and tech companies are working together to innovate and thrive.