CES may be a showcase of the latest smartphones, high-resolution TVs and wearable technology, but increasingly car technology plays a big part in the Las Vegas event.
Building upon 2015's show, CES 2016 was also full of car manufacturers and technology companies pushing into the car tech arena demonstrating their latest innovations that fuse consumer products with enterprise-grade IT systems.
At the top of the car tech agenda is the driverless car system, as car companies follow Google's lead in aiming to create autonomous cars and automated driving aids, closely followed by innovative systems that aim to link everyday gadgets with in-car infotainment platforms.
V3 has a rundown on the latest innovations in car technology revealed at CES 2016.
Microsoft and Harman
In a move to help drivers be more productive while on the road, Microsoft has teamed up with Harman to inject a dose of Office 365 and the Cortana virtual assistant into car infotainment units.
The partnership aims to mix Microsoft's software and cloud technologies with Harman's experience in creating connected products, audio systems and other components used as the foundations for the infotainment systems by many major car brands.
While Microsoft and Harman are not expecting drivers to hammer out Word documents or Excel reports while hurtling down the motorway, they aim to boost productivity by allowing Cortana to schedule meetings, respond to emails and join Skype conference calls through the use of voice control.
Neither Harman or Microsoft have a schedule for when this service will be available, but in the near future daily commutes for motorists could be spent closing deals and signing-off corporate actions rather than listening to inane radio DJs.
Beyond its work with Microsoft, Harman also showcased a system (video above) designed to monitor and track the pupils of drivers to assess their levels of cognitive activity and mental loads, such as stress, distractions, or the need to carry out a lot of multitasking.
Harman claims the system will bypass the need to have complex sensors in seats and steering wheels to assess a driver's cognitive capacity, and will instead monitor pupil dilation and fire that data through proprietary algorithms to analyse a pupil's reflex through signal processing and advanced processing.
By filtering this data, the system can identify pupil responses that are triggered when a driver has almost too much to think about and risks being distracted from the road.
In this situation the system can then prompt connected devices like smartphones in to ‘do-not-disturb' mode and set advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to assist the driver in a fashion that minimises mental and physical distractions.
Harman also revealed it will acquire automotive cyber security company Towersec, which specialises in protecting connected car networks.
The acquisition will see Towersec's technology integrated into Harman's 5+1 security architecture to protect the hardware, software and wireless network elements of connected and autonomous cars, which have been predicted to become attractive targets for hackers as more networked systems are integrated into new car models.
While the Canadian hardware and software company might be best known for its smartphones and secure email and messaging services, BlackBerry's QNX products are used as the software foundation for many car infotainment systems.
And QNX is set to play a bigger role in the automotive technology ecosystem, with BlackBerry unveiling several key updates the QNX portfolio.
The first was the QNX Acoustics Management Platform which aims to help car manufactures better manage in-car audio systems and acoustics by easing the process of connecting multiple acoustic and audio signal processing subsystems together in a single system.
QNX Platform for ADAS was also revealed by BlackBerry, which offers a software platform for automotive companies to build automated driving systems made up from ADAS modules and sensor clusters.
The platform will help bring together and process the data needed to facilitate autonomous driving from sources such as radar and on-board cameras.
While BlackBerry may not be building its own driverless car systems directly, it appears to be interested in contributing technology platforms that will feed into the autonomous driving ecosystem if and when it comes to mass market fruition.
Arguably the biggest car tech splash made at CES so far has been Nvidia's Drive PX 2 system, which uses supercomputer power and neural network deep learning to allow driverless cars to sense and navigate their surroundings.
The second version builds on the Tegra X1 mobile supercomputer chip-powered Drive PX system revealed at CES a year earlier, and features two next-generation Tegra processors, giving the platform 12 processor cores paired with two discrete GPUs based on Nvidia's latest Pascal architecture.
This gives Drive PX 2 eight teraflops of processing power, 10 times the power of the previous platform, and, according to Nvidia, equivalent to 150 Apple MacBook Pros. Drive PX 2 can crunch 24 trillion deep learning operations per second.
This supercomputer power is used to process autonomous driving algorithms, provided by a new version of Nvidia's Digits deep learning platform, to enable driverless cars to be trained in pathfinding and reacting to driving challenges such as road debris or adverse weather.
Drive PX 2 pulls in all the data it needs from car sensors, onboard cameras, lidar, radar and ultrasonic sensors.
Part of Nvidia's strength in this area is its experience in GPU technology, which can be used to process images and reduce the time needed to train deep learning systems.
Drive PX 2 enables the deployment of Digits, but combined they create Drivenet, a deep neural network designed to link all the information gathered from self-learning driverless cars and filter it through nine inception layers of neural networks to collate and refine new information that can be pushed back to driverless cars.
Nvidia is effectively looking to use its car tech and chips to create a mesh of connected cars that learn as they go along.
Volvo is the first car company to use Drive PX 2 with is autonomous cars, but Audi, BMW and Ford have made use of Drive PX and Digits and are likely to adopt the new platform.
Volvo took the opportunity at CES to reveal other car tech that it has been working on. The firm revealed a partnership with Microsoft to evolve how drivers interact with their cars and infotainment systems.
The Microsoft Band 2 can allow drivers to control things such as navigation, heating, lights, horns and door locks using voice commands spoken into the smart wristband. The same functions can also be carried out using the Volvo on Call mobile app.
The Swedish car maker has compared the system with retro US television show Knight Rider, in which the character Michael Knight, played by David Hasselhoff, could talk to his car.
It is unlikely that the partnership with Microsoft will enable Volvo to roll out slightly glib talking cars, but the move is indicative of a closer symbiosis of consumer technology and car systems.
The partnership with Microsoft builds on an announcement in November to use the Redmond company's HoloLens augmented reality headset to evolve how customers encounter and interact with Volvo cars, with ambitions to change how cars are bought and sold in the near future.
Volvo hinted that this could extend to autonomous driving technologies, and facilitate better use of all the data generated by car systems.
Volvo also revealed that it is working with Ericsson to develop an intelligent, cloud-powered and high-bandwidth media streaming system for its Concept 26 self-driving cars.
The system looks to recommend media content based on the autonomous driving time of a motorist's commute. It will also find the right time and place to download data for media in a way that does not disrupt the quality of the content being viewed.
Ford had plenty to reveal at CES this year starting with the announcement that it will add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to its Sync 3 infotainment platform. The firm also revealed new apps for its own take on smartphone and infotainment symbiosis dubbed AppLink.
Further building out the functionality of its Sync system (pictured above), Ford is exploring how its cars' infotainment systems can be linked with home automation systems and smart home products.
Ford will do this by using Amazon Echo, a wireless speaker supported by Amazon's cloud-powered Alexa software that can understand voice commands.
The goal is to connect the two systems and allow motorists to use voice commands to unlock cars, get a summary of vehicle mileage, schedule car start times from home, and set the cabin temperature for certain times and dates.
The connected systems could allow a driver to use voice commands activated by a button on the steering wheel to ask Alexa to turn on a smart home's lights or check whether a garage door is closed.
Ford is working with smart home platform Wink to enable compatibility with Sync's AppLink so that a driver can control smart home devices from the car's dashboard or through voice commands.
It would appear that Ford is really pushing the functionality of its Sync infotainment system. The latest version was improved in 2015 through the use of Microsoft's Azure cloud platform to enable over-the-air software updates.
General Motors (GM), which has brands such as Vauxhall and Chevrolet under its banner, announced a partnership with car sharing service Lyft to develop a fleet of driverless vehicles.
Lyft was looking to find $1bn in funding, and GM invested a hefty $500m to develop the autonomous vehicles while also making it easier for Lyft drivers to access and rent GM cars.
Lyft said that the partnership with GM recognises how the transport industry is changing with the advent of autonomous vehicles and an evolution in traditional car ownership.
"We will work with GM to build a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles that will make getting around more affordable, accessible and enjoyable. GM will also establish a series of national rental hubs where Lyft drivers can access short-term vehicles, unlocking new ways for people to earn money without having to own a car," the company said.
CES 2016 is in full swing and it is likely that more car brands will showcase their take on driverless car technology, infotainment systems, and connectivity with other products and services, each with the aim of evolving the role of the car in everyday life.
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