In-Car Tech Drives Growing Significance of CES

Audi-Sport-Quattro-Laserlight-Concept

Tomorrow, the Consumer Electronics Show opens its doors, revealing to show-goers the latest technological advancements that folks can expect in the coming year. Everything from smartphones to flatscreen TVs will be on display, but more importantly, the latest in-car tech will be showcased at the 2014 edition of CES as well.

Technology is becoming an ever-increasing component to a new car purchase. From smartphone connectivity to advanced safety features, buyers are test driving the tech as much as they are the car itself. But is our thirst for the latest gadgets overshadowing our ability to pick the car that is truly right for us? With the way CES has become more important to the automotive world, it’s not far fetched to think that we’re buying cars only based on how we interact with it, rather than how it drives.

RELATED: Will CES Become the Most Important Auto Show?

With the advent of online vehicle debuts and overnight remote reveals, automakers have started to utilize shows outside of the traditional auto show circuit. The main auto shows will always house the most new reveals, but the announcement of a new car technology can get lost in the mess of dozens of new car debuts. If an automaker wanted to showcase a new safety technology at the LA Auto Show, it might be overshadowed by a new Porsche sportscar or SUV rolling out just 30 minutes later.

So, the move to CES is a pragmatic one, born out of the need to get the right bloggers and journalists in front of the tech features that they will care about most– more than a new car debut.

Last year’s CES show centered around in-car app development, and open-source creation of apps for cars. Ford announced an app developer program, while Delphi announced a way to integrate smartphone connectivity to older cars.

CES: Delphi Delivering the Goods for In-Car Technology

Audi has had a large presence at CES for several years now. At the 2013 edition of the show, the German automaker rolled out the next generation of self-parking technology. Its Piloted Parking system allows the driver to exit the car while the car finds itself a parking spot in a garage. When you want to leave, the car comes back to the spot where you were dropped off.

As we move ever closer to the day when autonomous cars are on our roads, shows like CES will continue to play a major role. Not everyone in the motoring press is sold on the idea of self-driving cars. Most of our ranks are true automotive enthusiasts, who get up on Sundays to drive back roads in a sportscar the way a skier gets up early for a full day on the slopes. The idea of taking that independence away from us is unsettling.

But roll out a new self-driving car at CES and the crowd is apt to be far more receptive. A great deal more positive press can come from an autonomous car debut at CES than it might at the Detroit Auto Show.

RELATED: Audi Sport Quattro Laserlight Concept Set for CES Debut

The type of vehicle technologies on display at CES will always be new, because the tech that we value will continue to change with it. Last year it was in-car apps. That’s old hat, replaced by Audi’s new adaptive matrix LED lighting system and the addition of solar panels to Ford’s C-MAX Energi. The areas where a new technology can be added to a vehicle are seemingly endless. It could be as drastic as a self-parking feature, or as simple as a safer side view mirror– where there are tech advancements that automakers want to showcase, there will always be a need for CES.

There is still news around the in-car app side of things. Chevrolet announced that it is bringing 4G LTE into its lineup of vehicles. In partnership with AT&T, the paid option will allow a new Chevy to become a wifi hotspot for devices, as well as run a new suite of apps from inside the car.

This option will be available on the new Corvette, Impala, Malibu and Volt. It will eventually make its way to other vehicles in the Chevy lineup, and likely other GM vehicles like Cadillacs, Buicks and GMCs.

Though not as exciting as the debut of a new Corvette or Mustang, the presence of a wifi hotspot in a car will likely have more of an impact on our daily lives than the reveal of a new sportscar. The folks that attend and cover CES know this, and the timing (a week before the Detroit show) is quite ideal as well. Rather than compete with the dozens of debuts, an automaker can roll out a new technology at CES, that is covered by the nexus of the tech and automotive communities. When the Detroit show rolls around a week later, the automaker does not have to shout above the crowd to be noticed. Thanks to the coverage at CES just a week before, the journalists will come to them.

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