Postcards from the New York International Auto Show
Ah, the auto show. That wondrous time of year when we mere mortals may stroll happily among titans of automotive manufacturing, surveying their offerings of sleek styling, powerful engines, and driver comforts: all features great and small.
The line for entry to the convention center at 8:45AM on a Friday is filled with people of all shapes, coffee cups of all sizes, and logoed clothing for every automotive brand under the sun. Everyone in the line is cheerfully engaging in small talk while stealing the occasional glimpse forward to see if the doors have opened yet (they won’t, not for another 15 minutes). These early-rising journalists, influencers and enthusiasts are all united in their purpose: to get the first in-person glimpse of the future of automotive innovation.
At the 2018 NYC International Auto Show, innovation is the name of the game. Engines are more powerful, or more efficient, or more electric – depending on how you set them. Instrument panels sway back and forth across the line between being informative and being overly distracting. Cars can park themselves, navigate themselves, and are taking the early steps toward driving themselves. The challenge for auto makers, it seems, is adding all these new features while also keeping faith with the design aesthetics that made their cars famous.
The good news is, those who love both form and function will not be let down! Everywhere you look, the technologies power autonomous features are lurking just below the surface. Once your eyes adjust, you can see them – the little marks, dots and hints that herald highly automated driving functions. For example, in the photo above, can you see the rear-facing camera? How about the 2 ultrasonic sensors?
From car to car, designs incorporate sensor technology intelligently – often hiding in plain sight. As another example, in the front grill below, you can see two ultrasonic sensors (the small circles), and you might guess that there’s a front-facing radar sensor behind the logo. But, did you spot the night vision camera? Notice the silver dots missing from the upper left?
With advanced sensors comes advanced connected features, and connectivity is where interiors continue to blossom. In-Vehicle Infotainment systems are more luxurious than ever, and they’ve broken free of the traditional center-dashboard position. Much like the Audi A8, the navigation experience is moving beyond the car, into smartphone companion applications, for a more seamless navigation experience.
Once features are connected, they can go anywhere – to the driver’s instrument cluster, or to the backseat drivers – along with environment and entertainment controls.
The more these vehicles can detect about their environment, the more information they can share back into a network to inform other drivers on the road – regardless of what make or model you’re driving.
That information makes for better drivers via better and earlier alerts concerning the roadways ahead - the same information that future autonomous vehicles will need.
Among the rows of cars, and lights and features, we can see the technology rising. That tech doesn’t just simply make cars faster. It makes them smarter, safer, and more adaptive to what we, the drivers, want from them. That’s the future of automotive technology, and a future we look forward to.
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