In recent years, CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics confab, has become quite the major auto show. After all, consumer tech and automotive tech keep blending more and more. For CES 2022, automakers like BMW, Cadillac, Hyundai, Mercedes and Sony — wait, who? — really put some crazy futuristic concepts into high gear.
Overall, the mix of ideas ranged from mildly interesting to jaw-dropping. You had the prosaic news, like Amazon Fire TV integrating with Ford and Lincoln vehicles and YouTube video appearing in Volvos. But you also had the wild stories, like some concept cars that look like they belong elsewhere in the galaxy and others that change colors by themselves.
Cadillac makes a sort of autonomous spaceship
The concept car Cadillac unveiled at CES 2022 is an impossibly sleek two-door intergalactic e-roadster that doesn’t pretend to be the prim EV your aunt takes to the farmers market or a practical crossover SUV for the families of tomorrow.
It has two seats and long, sloping lines. Both of the doors and the roof pop up. The seats meld together like a loveseat, yet both pivot outward for easy entry and exit. The cool-looking Goodyear tires are made of soybean oil and rice husk-based silica.
This lovely beast, part of the automaker’s Halo Concept Portfolio, is meant to be like a lounge on wheels. It’s fully autonomous and packs a screen that takes up almost the whole dashboard. No steering wheel. No pedals.
If you meet your end in this thing, at least you’ll look pretty cool on the way out.
These Beemers put on shows and change colors without any paint
BMW rolled out a slew of concepts, from a huge screen for the back seat to a vehicle filled with artistic imagery to a car with a body that changes colors by itself.
The carmaker’s upcoming Theater Screen is athat plays multimedia in resolutions up to 8K for an audience in the back seat. Turning on the display makes the rear window sunshades darken the cabin while a Hans Zimmer-created “sound experience” comes up. BMW said this will be in production cars “very soon.”
Making its debut in a BMW iX M60 EV, Digital Art Mode displays art from multimedia artist Cao Fei on the iX’s curved digital dashboard and tweaks ambient lighting to go with it. Production cars will see the feature added later this year, BMW said.
Art in the car might seem neat, but how about a BMW that changes color — on the outside — by itself? The BMW iX Flow concept enables each body panel to shift through every part of the grayscale spectrum with choices of design, as well. That’s flat-out cool, but it also makes sense if you want to make your car mostly white to reflect some sun on a hot day.
Oh, and BMW debuted a new high-performance EV SUV, too. The BMW iX M60. An actual car.
Mercedes-Benz shows a sexy and quite serious EV
At a show like this, some concepts are on the pie-in-the-sky side — or wherever that Cadillac is going — and some aren’t. The Mercedes Benz Vision EQXX may belong in the latter category, with at least some of its features likely to appear on real-world EVs in the next few years.
The car is clearly a looker, but it’s also a highly efficient EV. An advanced body design with a super-low drag coefficient and advances in powertrain technology allow it a theoretical range of 621 miles. The longest-range production Tesla gets a little over 400.
And Mercedes said it will do it without making the battery especially large or heavy. Air channeled under the body cools the battery, allowing for less reliance on liquid cooling.
All that, and it has seats made out of mushrooms and a dashboard that stretches all the way across the car as a single bonded screen.
Sony doubles down on EVs with a new SUV
Sony’s automotive aspirations aren’t a complete surprise, as it offered a sedan EV concept two years ago, the Vision-S. That car has been tested on the road. But it’s still a little surprising when an electronics company known for headphones and such actually rolls out a car. On a stage.
At CES 2022, Sony debuted the Vision-S 02. It’s an electric SUV that’s a bit like a larger Vision-S. A little less sleek, a little more practical. It’s about the same size as a Tesla Model Y.
The Vision-S 02 puts out 268 horsepower through a pair of electric motors. At 5,500 pounds, it needs the power.
Inside the car, an array of sensors watch over passengers while numerous screens stream content for them. Speakers in the seats offer 360 degree sound. And of course you can pick up on gaming where you left off, with a PlayStation connection to the console at home.
There’s really no telling yet if Sony’s new mobility division will put this car on the road for real, but it could easily happen.
That’s all very nice, but in the future we will travel in pods
CES 2022 — the, ahem, “auto show” — was not all about sexy futuristic concept cars, however. Hyundai brought forth its Plug and Drive (PnD) pod concept. Relying heavily on advanced robotics, it dwells on new methods of mobility in a future where cars — inevitably? — are not the be all, end all.
The PnD module is an electric pod concept that takes advantage of 360-degree steering and electric power. It has plenty of possible uses — like helping logistics robots safely deliver cargo, enabling a person of limited mobility get around relatively freely or bringing the emergency room to those in need.