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Best of CES 2015: The car announcements you should care about

Usually a show for curved televisions, clever cameras and other gadgets you will end up wanting to own in years to come, CES 2015 was automotive crazy. Or is that car-azy? Get it? Oh, nevermind.

Self-driving cars, a VW Golf you can control with your hand, credit card keys and a £4,000 Lamborghini phone – here are all the highlights from the Las Vegas tech show that stood out like a particularly sore thumb.

Mercedes F 015 Luxury in Motion concept car

When a car can drive itself, there’s really no need to design the cabin as you would normally. In Merc’s F 015 Luxury in Motion concept, everyone faces each other, with the seats able to rotate. The steering wheel actually retracts when the autonomous driving mode is selected, allowing the driver to kick back and relax. Not only that, it can project a zebra crossing on the road for pedestrians to use.

BMW key fob and self-parking

Squeezing out of the car can be a pain if a parking space is tight. Unless you end up owning the new BMW 7 Series, that is, which can use Garage Park Assist to let you stand outside while it finishes the job of reversing. If you think that’s cool, BMW is also working on Remote Valet Parking Assist, a feature that lets you get of the car while it goes off to find you a space.

Nvidia Drive CX virtual cockpit

Nvidia is ensuring it plays a vital role in the rise of increasingly sophisticated cars, hence why it used CES 2015 to show off its Tegra X1 chip used to power its Drive CX virtual cockpit. Basically Drive CX is a display that works as an instrument cluster, providing the driver with usual stuff like rpm and speed in addition to less common things like 3D navigation and real-time travel news.

BMW credit card key

For those who dislike carrying keys, BMW brings you its Mastercard credit card that lets you gain access to a vehicle. At the moment the DriveNow system is only available for rental cars from Sixt, but BMW said there’s a good chance it will reach private customers.

Hyundai Blue Link smartwatch app and head-up display

Nerdy or not, wearables are here to stay. At with Hyundai’s Blue Link Android Wear app, it has some clever functionality we could see ourselves using. Load up the app, ensure you’re connected to a data connection and it’s entirely possible to start your car engine remotely or lock or unlock the doors. Lost your car? Use the find my car function or make your Hyundai honk its horn. Neat, eh? There was also a demonstration of a head-up display that projects useful information right in front of the driver.

Tonino Lamborghini Tauri 88 smartphone

Tonino Lamborghini is a luxury product company spin-off from the Italian supercar maker. Its latest creation, which follows on from the Antares smartphone of 2013, is the Android-powered 88 Tauri. The particularly garish phone offers solid specs, hard-to-miss styling and exclusivity for a mere £4,000. Makes the iPhone 6 look very cheap, indeed.

Toyota hydrogen fuel cell patent share

In a bid to create a compelling alternative to the combustion engine and electric motors, Toyota has opened up nearly 6,000 patents for any company to make use of. Why? Because multiple minds and multiple bank accounts are better than one when it comes to making progress.

VW Golf R Touch

Wanting to be a part of the show, Volkswagen unveiled the most technically advanced Golf ever. The Golf R Touch combines the fun of the 296bhp production car with three displays built into the dashboard, one of which measures 12.8-inches. Not only that, there was a demonstration of hand gesture controls – similar to how you can control the Xbox 360 and Xbox One using Kinect – made possible by a 3D camera in the cabin. The car is just a concept but you can expect the technologies to filter into a car you can buy.

Audi’s autonomous A7 Sportback concept

What better way to show off a self-driving car than by driving it 550 miles from San Francisco to CES 2015 in Las Vegas? That was Audi’s thinking when it demoed the A7 Sportback concept car, which is said to be production ready. A series of cameras, LIDAR laser and a 3D camera gives the A7 a 360-degree view of its surroundings, allowing it to drive without human input up to 70mph. The catch? It only works on motorways and highways so no inner-city driving just yet.

Harman Individual Sound Zones

Thanks to the addition of increasingly clever infotainment systems, you could end up stuck driving for four hours while your youngest sings along to Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ on repeat. Luckily Harman has come up with Sound Zones, a clever technology that lets everyone in the car listen to their own audio. So one passenger can air guitar to Jimmy Hendrix while the driver listens to the navigation directions at the same time. The technology – expected to arrive this year – is said to work with a vehicle’s existing sound system.

Parrot RNB 6 car stereo

There are car stereos and infotainment systems that support Apple CarPlay and there are those that support Android Auto. Parrot’s RNB 6 can run both, allowing you to connect to the 7-inch display using an iPhone or Android device. Typical features like an HDMI connection for connecting a screen and FM/AM radio compliment less common features like a dashboard camera that can capture your journey and save it to a hard drive. Likely to be expensive, but we still want one.

StoreDot electric car recharging

Electric cars need to be left overnight to recharge, but that may stop being the case. A Tel-Aviv university project has resulted in a charger that can fully juice a smartphone in 30 seconds and the plan is to recharge an electric car in three minutes at CES 2016.

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