In recent years, there's been a growing overlap between the annual Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. In fact, some would argue that CES is more exciting than NAIAS because it features more concepts, more far-out, pie-in-the-sky, gee-whiz gadgetry.
That's probably to be expected. CES isn't just focused on cars, it's focused on a wide range of technologies, from watches to refrigerators to televisions. It hosts a diverse array of products, and as a result, a more diverse array of ideas than NAIAS, which is by definition focused on a single industry.
As the media preview in Las Vegas wraps up -- and before the fun starts next week in Detroit -- we thought we'd offer a quick recap of some of our favorite car stories from this year's CES. In no particular order:
Faraday Future's 1000-hp, all-electric concept: The mysterious start-up known as Faraday Future has spent the past year-and-a-half amassing a small army of workers, raising funds for a new $1 billion facility in Nevada, and building its first prototype. That concept -- dubbed the FFZERO1 -- debuted at CES, and it definitely turned some heads. There's no word yet on when the company's first production model will hit the streets, but if Faraday can keep tongues wagging, enthusiasts will be happy to wait.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt: This boxy, all-electric model debuted at last year's Detroit Auto Show, and Chevrolet promised that it would zip into showrooms soon. A month later, we heard that Chevy was preparing for production, and on Wednesday, the company unveiled the final Bolt design. It's much sportier than the original, it comes with an impressive 200-mile range, and it's expected to be priced below $30,000 after federal tax credits. This could be the game-changer that electric-car fans have been looking for.
Ford ramps up autonomous car research: A couple of weeks ago, rumors began circulating that Ford had partnered with Google to develop autonomous cars. In fact, word on the street is that they're creating an entirely new company together. While Ford didn't discuss such gossip at CES, reps didn't dismiss it, either. And more importantly, Ford said that it's tripling its fleet of autonomous Fusion Hybrid prototypes.
Toyota keeps Android, Apple off its dashboards: Over the summer, Toyota announced that it wouldn't be offering Android Auto or Apple CarPlay in Lexus, Scion, or Toyota vehicles. Instead, it planned to develop its own system to link smartphones with cars. We think it's a pretty stupid move -- after all, people are passionate about their smartphones, and anecdotal data suggests that CarPlay in particular can make or break a new-car sale. But at CES, Toyota stubbornly continued down its lonely path, despite the fact that its tech partner, Ford, just announced plans to roll out CarPlay and Android Auto to vehicles this year.
And one more thing: a wheel cover to end teen texting. A 20-year-old inventor named T.J. Evarts has dreamed up an ingeniously simple solution to the problem of teenage drivers texting behind the wheel. His "Smart Wheel" device is a steering wheel cover that detects when a driver has just one hand on the wheel, signalling that he or she might be texting. When that happens, the device can send an alert to parents or others via an app. It's not perfect, but it's as good or better as many of the products we've seen in the distracted driving category. Plus, it works on nearly any steering wheel. It's expected to arrive on shelves later this year.
(c) 2016, High Gear Media.