It's been an odd development over the past few years, but car manufacturers are now among the biggest exhibitors at CES. With giant and massively expensive booths you'll find Sony and Samsung along with Ford and Audi. BMW, too, has a huge presence at CES 2014, taking up the entirety of the parking lot outside the south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. They built an exhibition center to show off the technology that's gone into their electric "i" sub-brand.
Right now there are just two vehicles in that i sub-brand, the i3 and the i8. Both are impressive vehicles, but the i3 was the one that BMW really wanted to show off at CES. The car is a tiny one, seating four in a relatively small space. It's something that's been made possible thanks to the electric drive, which places the battery pack and the small electric motor below the floor.
With a range that tops out at 100 miles when you take it easy on the accelerator, the i3 isn't meant for long-haul trips. There is an optional "range extender" gas-powered generator that can be added to the i3, adding another 80 miles of range. Though unlike a traditional hybrid, the gas engine is purely used to power an electric generator to top off the battery. Or you can plug the i3 into a 240-volt charger and be up to 90% in 30 minutes.
Tonight saw Audi's pre-first-day CES keynote presentation, and this year's theme was iteration. Audi wouldn't tell you that was what the theme was — with them it's all "Vorsprung Durch Technik" (that's Advancement Through Technology) — but what Audi introduced was evolutions of announcements from preceding years.
Last year Audi rolled out an A8 sedan onto the stage, or more accurately the A7 rolled itself out. It was an early demo of driverless technology that didn't depend on an array of sensors and scanners mounted to the roof. What wasn't shown off at CES 2013 was the trunk of that car, which was packed with computer boxes to manage all of the millions of inputs per second that it was receiving from the sensors distributed around the car. This year, Audi drove out, err, had drive itself out, an A7, sans driver or passengers. But what made this year's demo different from last years was the consolidation and miniaturization of the computing platform that made the self-driving possible. Or, as Audi likes to call it, piloted driving.
Chevy announced last week that it is expanding the number of its car models that will ship with Siri "Eyes Free" support. After making a successful debut on this year's models of the Chevy Spark, Spark EV and Sonic, Chevy is expanding support to include more models, according to a press release.
Ten months ago at WWDC 2012 Apple introduced Siri Eyes Free for integrating Siri voice interactivity with automobiles. On the screen behind Scott Forstall were the logos of nine auto manufacturers: Audi, BMW, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, and Toyota. To date, only one manufacturer has delivered: GM. They committed in November to integrating Siri into the youth-oriented Chevrolet Sonic and Spark, demoed the integration at CES 2013, and cars equipped with the feature finally started rolling off the assembly line in Michigan last month. Chevy has already started advertising Siri Eyes Free integration for the Sonic on television across the United States.
At CES 2013, Chevy showed off Siri Eyes Free integration in the compact Sonic and subcompact Spark, and today Honda has announced that later this year they're bringing the same to three substantially larger vehicles in the corporate stable: the 2013 Honda Accord, Acura RDX, or Acura ILX.
At CES 2013, Chevrolet was showing off Siri and TuneIn Radio apps working in their 2013 Spark and Sonic vehicles. All of the features you would expect are there, such as dictating messages to Siri and checking calendar appointments via voice.