/CES 2012 – Geeks and Cars, Convergence is Happening

CES 2012 – Geeks and Cars, Convergence is Happening

ces 2012 babe lamborghini at CES 2012   Geeks and Cars, Convergence is Happening

There used to be a time when cars got their own trade shows, it still happens as we’ve just been reminded of in Detroit, while on the other side of the country in San Francisco the geeks would meet and salivate over graphics cards and CPUs that think faster than the human brain. But all of that is starting to change, there are now as many software developers working in the auto industry as engineers, so it’s only a matter of time till car companies start paying attention to consumer electronic shows.

Well, it’s happened. In Las Vegas.

Would you ever expect to see PCWorld, Panasonic, Samsung sharing a hall with Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Chevrolet? The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show held January 10-13 in Las Vegas isn’t the first time this has happened, but is certainly the biggest, and demonstrates the fuzzy lines between electronics and cars, where some of the most hyped stands were auto companies showing off their smartphone apps or augmented reality windscreens and rear view mirrors.

It all starts the night before the show opens with a headlining pre-show called the Digital Experience! where a selected few of the 1,200 CES exhibitors put their best foot forward, and if you’re looking for car gear at an electronics show this is the heads up on what to expect when doors open the next day.

ces 2012 car1 at CES 2012   Geeks and Cars, Convergence is Happening

As you’d expect, all the major brands currently for sale in America have a display, they’d be crazy to miss this, Detroit is for die hard car fans who want to smell exhaust fumes and talk revs per minute, but CES brings in the regular folk who care about comfort and things that makes their lives easier. Car companies understand this, so you won’t find prototypes and supercars on display. At CES it’s all about car gadgets.

Ford have been a regular, with CEO Alan Mulally giving a keynote the last three years, in fact his presentations have been eagerly awaited, and this year Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche took the stage as well, a possibly significant event in the convergence of cars and geeks and could see more carmakers recognizing the value of these types of shows. After all, consumer media reaches a wider audience than traditional car media.

2012 is shaping up to be a great year for convergence of automotive engineering and consumer electronics as more car makers add GPS and mapping, Satellite entertainment, anti-crash and obstacle avoidance technology, communication connectivity, and augmented reality directly into the vehicles without requiring third party hardware. Buyers of today’s vehicles are finding more complete packages to choose from, and in many cases now the consumer tech convergence is starting to be a deal breaker for people interested in maximum safety behind the wheel, or maximum comfort for passengers.

ces 2012 ferrari1 at CES 2012   Geeks and Cars, Convergence is Happening

Ford took centre stage amongst the auto makers with their MyFord Touch vehicle communication system, which has already been seen on the Edge, but is now upgraded to be easier to use with a redesigned display, faster rendering, and larger fonts. The 3D navigation also gets a much needed upgrade, with faster graphics processor allowing for more detailed buildings and scenery.

Mercedes-Benz are also proud of their system named mbrace2 which is being developed for all of the makers cars including the Smart car brand. Whilst feature set is similar to Ford, or any manufacturer for that matter, Zetsche confirmed that automatic updates will be possible remotely rather than through the dealer channel, and the system will be voice controlled to avoid taking hands off the wheel.

Less impressive was Chevrolet who brought along the latest update to their MyLink software, bringing features previously seen in the Cadillac to other models such a the Spark and Sonic, both scheduled for inclusion in the 2013 models. MyLink connects through the car owner’s smartphone using Pandora or Stitcher apps, and the output is shown on a 7″ screen in the center console.

Japanese manufacturers have been at the forefront of technology in their vehicles for years, but American and European badges seem to have the edge, with Honda and Subaru only announcing cloud based infotainment with “thousands of channels”. Even if the technology is new and innovative in cars, anyone already familiar with existing cloud entertainment might be forgiven for yawning. Frankly we were expecting more from the Japanese.

ces 2012 babe at CES 2012   Geeks and Cars, Convergence is Happening

The obvious counterbalance to Ford, Chevrolet, and Mercedes-Benz is South Korea’s Kia Motors who showed off continued enhancements to their UVO eServices, a voice controlled car management system. This is an app for smartphones giving a range of 15 features including alerts for service scheduling, engine fault reports, or guiding you to your car in busy carparks. Expect to see UVO eServices on all 2013 models.

Aside from carmakers hoping to offer consumer services to buyers as a new revenue stream, existing satellite radio providers SiriusXM are looking to retain their market share by offering added options such live game broadcasts from one click on the player’s scorecard. The company announced 21 million subscribers, and is aggressively committed to grow its customer base.

Navigation supplier Telenav introduced their new iPhone app named Scout which is capable of displaying POI information directly on the smartphone screen or the screen of the in-car nav screen. Another iPhone app launched from Escort, a police radar detector manufacturer, now allows drivers to share locations of speed traps and radar guns.

Perhaps one of the more interesting innovations on display at CES is aimed at racers who need to record their actions and the track around their car, GoPro, maker of a wearable extreme sports HD video camera debuted their BacPac system allowing upto 50 GoPro cameras to be linked with the driver or navigator choosing which feed to record. With 50 cameras on board, both on the driver helmet, dash, outside the vehicle, even under the wheel arch, video output could be spectacular.

CES 2012 certainly wasn’t just for geeks, hardcore motorheads with a penchant for toys found plenty to wow them.

(Journalist) – Andy worked in a sales capacity within the automotive industry for many years, in both spare parts wholesale, and new car sales. His transition to journalism in Spain has also led him to writing about his passions, motoring amongst them.