CES 2015 is over, the 2015 Detroit Motor Show is done and dusted, and we now know what the next year has in store for us in the world of motoring. There are some really cool things going on, and we've rounded them all up into one place. Here's your scoop on 2015's high-tech cars.
The biggest announcement at the Detroit Motor Show had to be the new Ford GT, and it's a very interesting vehicle. It builds on the hugely successful legacy of the original GT40 and the mid-2000s GT, but unlike those two barn-storming racers this new GT uses a much more modern approach. No more V8s, for one.
Everything about the new GT screams world-class Le Mans racer. The new car, which will enter production next year, uses a mid-mounted, twin-turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost V6 designed for the most efficient production of horsepower possible, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, all built around a carbon fiber tub in the same design as a McLaren P1 or LaFerrari. Ford's A4-paper-sized 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost is an amazing little piece of tech used in the current Fiesta, so it should be pretty damn impressive in a larger capacity and with much higher boost — good for upwards of 450kW (600hp).
Ford has also released the latest iteration of SYNC and SYNC AppLink into the the wild. SYNC 3 is a big improvement on an already good system, but it also includes Siri Eyes-Free integration with Apple's various iPhones and can hook into your home Wi-Fi to check for the latest software every couple of days. The newest version of AppLink now includes support for moving graphics — so think of real-time navigation with moving maps — with the heavy lifting being done on your connected smartphone and displayed on the in-car screen.
Ford's new GT is also the hero car for the just-announced Forza Motorsport 6; since that'll probably be the closest we ever get to actually driving one, we can't wait for it to be released around the middle of this year. Being a Microsoft game, you'll have to pick up an Xbox One to play it. Let's be honest, it'll probably be worth it.
It has been a long time coming, but the new NSX is here. (Almost.) Slated for 2016, the Acura-but-here-it'll-be-a-Honda NSX follows largely the same formula as the Ford GT — massively twin-turbocharged V6, nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, with the addition of a triple-motor electric hybrid. Honda says that the new NSX will have upwards of 410kW (550hp), although there are reports of it being quite a bit higher.
What's especially interesting about the NSX, which has significantly evolved since it was first teased in concept form way back in 2012, is the fact that it was apparently completely redesigned in a year and a half, including the not-so-easy task of completely changing the mounting direction of the engine and gearbox. Given that it has those electric motors for ceaseless acceleration and the gearing advantages that nine gears brings — hell, you'll only find a measly seven in F1 — it should be equal parts trackday monster and usable everyday supercar.
We followed Nvidia's announcements live here on Gizmodo, and one of the fancy chips announced was the Tegra X1: a tiny system-on-chip processor made to be used in cars, powering dashboards and entertainment. It's being put to good use inside the NVIDIA Drive CX: a digital cockpit computer. Designed for future cars, it’s meant to power a bunch of different high-resolution screens, a number of virtual machines and comes with support for QNX, Linux and Android.
Nvidia’s new Drive CX “mobile cockpit computer” is a device that’s powered by a Tegra X1 that can push 16.6 megapixels, or 4 HD displays. That is to say, it can power a whole bunch of badass displays in your car all at once. It could turn your car’s dash into a sci-fi spaceship dashboard — and no more flat and unhelpful mapping displays, but full 3D graphics that represent the world around you.
But it goes further than just that, too. Nvidia wants to put the X1 to work to help be the brains of future driverless cars. Nvidia’s also announced something called the Drive PX, an “auto-pilot car computer” that’s powered by two X1s. The point of this chip? To know everything that’s going on in and around your car, from what’s displayed on its screens, to anything coming in from driver assistance cameras that are facing outwards. It’s the brain that makes sense of what’s coming in through the cars’ many eyes, that lets it really learn about and understand its surroundings using neural network technology that can teach itself what cars and vans and cyclists and pedestrians look like over time.
Bonus: The boss of Nvidia thinks that self-driving cars shouldn't be forced to make their own ethical decisions.
Chevrolet (and by extension, Holden) dipped their proverbial toes into the electric car pool a while back with the hybrid Volt: an electric car with a petrol-powered range extender. Now it’s diving in head-first with an all-electric hatchback partly designed in Australia. Meet the Bolt. Unveiled in Detroit, the Bolt is a hatchback not dissimilar from the Barina Spark shape, only made from super-lightweight materials including magnesium, carbon fibre and mesh.
It has an estimated range of 320km on a single charge, and features a swathe of tech including the ability to use your smartphone as a key to unlock and start the car and the autonomous capabilities that allows the car to drop you off and find a park itself. Once you’re ready to be picked up, it returns to you from the carpark automatically. It’s only a concept at the moment, but Holden’s parent expects to have something similar in the market soon for roughly $US30,000. And we can't decide whether it looks good or not.
Alongside the Bolt, there's a new Volt. The updated model, which if it makes its way to Australia will be badged by Holden, boasts a lighter yet more energy-dense 18.4kWh battery, an electric motor that's 12 per cent more efficient, and a much improved 80 kilometres of all-electric range. The dashboard also gets a much-needed update.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are the future of mainstream in-car entertainment, and their coming of age is this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Imagine all the most important driving apps on your smartphone, whatever its brand — that's navigation, music, calendar, traffic alerts, Google Now cards and so on — appearing on your phone but displayed on your car's dashboard. It's being integrated into brand new vehicles and third-party headunits alike; I can’t wait to get it in my own car.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are largely similar, but have a few small functional differences — and obviously you need an iOS device for one and Android for the other. Nevertheless, there are third-party in-car entertainment manufacturers like Pioneer and Parrot who are making headunits that support both interfaces, letting you switch between them with a tap or two on the touchscreen. Parrot's RNB6 does that, and also includes an awesome-looking augmented reality dashcam.
Kenwood has taken a McLaren 650S and filled it to the doors with future, and it looks incredible. Kenwood’s new dashboard concept has seen the car audio company strip the gorgeous 650S down to its carpets and completely replace the instrument cluster, console screen and other buttons with an array of screens, cameras and tablets. The central idea is that everything you need is projected in front of the driver, with all the relevant information from the mirrors, screens and instruments being placed within a 45-degree wedge of vision.
The traditional speedometer has been replaced by a 10-inch TFT screen which shows anything from RPM through to speed and even navigation and entertainment information. Above that is a series of three screens that are fed by cameras mounted around the car. There’s no rearview mirror or side mirrors on Kenwood’s McLaren 650S. Instead, there are cameras on the aerodynamic wings, as well as two cameras up front, two underneath and two on the back.
The motoring public generally hold scooters in pretty low regard, but the Gogoro electric scooter looks like it should break free from all those negative stereotypes. It's small, unpretentious, and can hit a top speed of 95km/h — so you can get yourself out of any sticky traffic situation that might arise. Perfect for city commuting without needing petrol fill-ups every couple of weeks.
The Gogoro scooter's about the size of a 50cc Honda (think the Scoopy, not the Lead), put packs quite a punch. The Gogoro is set to debut in the US in 2015 When the battery runs dry, you can’t just plug it in to an outlet in your house. Instead, the Gogoro relies on battery swap stations at shopping centres and petrol stations. You pull the two battery units out of your Gogoro and grab two more from the charge station and you’re away. Gogoro reckon it will take 6 seconds to change over your batteries, which is F1 pit crew-efficient.
In an effort to help spread the adoption and further the development of the hydrogen fuel cell technology the company developed for its FCV concept vehicle — now known as the Mirai — Toyota has announced that it’s making approximately 5680 fuel cell patents available for royalty-free use. The long list of patents includes around 1970 related to the actual in-vehicle fuel cells, 290 covering technologies behind the high-pressure hydrogen tanks the Mirai and other cars will use to safely transport the fuel, and 70 pertaining to the production of hydrogen itself.
The patents will specifically be made available to other automakers, parts suppliers and companies interesting in building fueling stations. And while the patents relating to fuel cell vehicles will only be royalty-free until 2020, the ones relating to hydrogen production will remain royalty-free indefinitely. The announcement might sound like an altruistic move on Toyota’s part to help the world move away from fossil fuels (it’s certainly a nice gesture) but it will also help further the adoption of fuel cell vehicles, which will in turn make it easier for consumers to purchase and drive the company’s own Mirai once it’s officially available.
44 hours isn't very long to build an entire car, especially when you're building it from scratch using 3D printing and Big Area Additive Manufacturing. With an electric powertrain capable of a solid 65km/h top speed, Local Motors' Strati uses a giant 250-degree oven with internal 3D printer to shake and bake the entire car before it's milled down and readied for on-road use.
Even the design was crowd-sourced. Car construction around the world has moved from wood and steel and plastic to aluminium and carbon fibre in the last decade or two, and it's looking like 3D printed materials will be the next big thing in the years to come. CES 2015 and the Detroit Motor Show had some pretty impressive pieces of automotive technology, but with manufacturing techniques advancing as fast as they are there's a pretty good chance that in the future, you'll be driving one of these.
BMW had a smartwatch on show at CES this year that can interpret voice and translate it into movement commands for an i3 electric car, delivering it to your location for you to drive manually. Said car could also brake (not break) your i3, before it runs into your legs or a wall or a tottering small child. Convenience, now with added safety!
Audi had a smartwatch too, although this one is built by LG. Interestingly, it's based on the same webOS software as the company's own TVs, and was shown off driving around a Q7 four-wheel drive in concert with a similar Audi-branded tablet. Speak to the watch and your car should arrive, valet-like, when and where you require it. Should.
It's expensive, and it's not that great. $6000 could buy you about 30 Nexus 5 handsets to play with, but this particular phone is all about the brand and the leather and the massive metallic bezels.
Tonino Lamborghini is really good at making expensive things. For decades, that’s mostly meant cars — beautiful, beautiful cars that 99 per cent of people will never even get the chance to sit in, let alone drive. But where these overly luxurious autos can inspire car envy, the Lamborghini smartphone, called the 88 Tauri, really doesn’t.
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