2019 CES Highlights: News Made by Ford, Toyota, Audi, and Other Automakers

Rear seats get entertainment screens, and the front seats can rotate inward up to 12 degrees to facilitate conversation when the car isn’t moving. The luxurious Byton M-Byte looks promising, and the automaker has set a debut date of mid-2019, but considering how long it’s taken other Tesla-challenging start-ups to actually produce cars for consumers to buy, we take that date with a grain of salt.


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Ford announced its plans to roll out cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology for 2022. The system will be compatible with the coming 5G architecture but also works on existing 4G LTE and other cellular networks. Ford’s architecture leverages Qualcomm communications technology, which allows connected devices to communicate directly with one another even when out of range of a cell tower. A major benefit of C-V2X over other communications protocols like direct short-range communications (DSRC) is that pedestrians, cyclists, and so forth are more likely to carry a cell phone than a DSRC-enabled communications device so they will be better protected.


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Hyundai announced plans to introduce a dedicated, modular electric platform (called E-GMP) by 2020. The automaker showcased a Style Set Free vehicle personalization concept that looked for all the world like an Apple Store where owners of future autonomous Hyundais could order things such as an onboard rowing machine. And a mobility ecosystem concept was floated in which clients could purchase mobility by the mile, by the minute, or by the megawatt. Few details have been hammered out as yet on that last one. Hyundai’s CRADLE (Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences) venture-capital subsidiary was founded in late 2017 and has already invested in 30 startups. But it was the team overseeing and coordinating with these companies that built and unveiled a crazy robotic walking car concept called Elevate, which we covered here.


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Mercedes-Benz introduced its new CLA-Class and announced that its Freightliner Cascadia big-rig truck would be first to market offering SAE level 2 partial autonomy. The CLA-Class joins its mechanical twin, the A-Class, in democratizing Benz’s MBUX user interface to middle-class incomes, complete with gesture control and a digital assistant that responds to “Hey, Mercedes.” The Freightliner, meanwhile, brings the kinds of advanced driver aids we’re just beginning to take for granted—automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping, lane centering, adaptive cruise control, auto headlights and high-beams, auto wipers-to Class 8 trucks for the first time ever.


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Toyota is collaborating with Kenworth to equip 10 new T680 big-rig tractors with fuel-cell powertrains as part of a $41 million Zero and Near-Zero Emissions Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF) grant preliminarily awarded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The grant aims to clean up the air around the Port of Los Angeles, but the trucks have a 300-mile range and will deliver freight throughout the L.A. basin. The Toyota Research Institute unveiled its P4 autonomous vehicle testing platform, based on a Lexus LS 500h, and Guardian, a level 2 autonomy system that utilizes the sensing and computing power of a level 4 or 5 system to better warn and assist drivers under dangerous or particularly demanding driving conditions. The Toyota Mobility Foundation unveiled concepts to aid in personal mobility that included Evowalk (a sleeve that stimulates leg muscles to aid in walking), Moby (a concept of shared devices that motorize manual wheelchairs), Phoenix Ai Ultralight Wheelchair (a largely carbon self-balancing chair that eliminates vibration), and Qolo and Quix (two wheeled exoskeleton concepts that allow paraplegics to move around standing up). And finally the company announced a partnership with Japanese cellular giant KDDI and U.S.-based AT&T to upgrade Toyota/Lexus connectivity with 4G LTE technology.

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