Software and Solar Dominate Car Advances at 2014 CES

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) featured plenty of brand new electronic innovations that are sure to tempt even the most dedicated petrol head.

One of the most common themes was the battle to bring fully-functioning operating systems to the humble dashboard. The Guardian is already reporting that Google's new 'Open Automotive Alliance' is set to unite the internet giant with Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and computing company Nvidia to fight Microsoft and Apple for dashboard dominance. So confident are Google, in fact, that Android engineering director Patrick Brady claims, "you can expect to see the first cars with Android integration by the end of this year".

Thankfully for motorists, third parties are keen to avoid any potential compatibility issues that could result from competing technologies. HARMAN International's Aha platform is listed among CES 2014's best innovations thanks to its cloud-based platform. It has been designed to bring location-based services and more than 40,000 programmes to car dashboards via a smartphone app, and is compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

However, a number of observers have already voiced their concerns over the potential increase in cyber attacks on vehicles with such complex technology, and it's certainly true that car insurance claims could get a lot more complicated if hackers were to blame. Fortunately, HARMAN International's next gen infotainment platforms will contain a software barrier that will prevent cyber attacks on a car's electronic control units: the essential electronics that control operation and safety features. These are expected to be available from 2016/7.

For those more concerned about powering their new in-car tech, Ford have already developed an innovative solution. The roof of their new C-Max Solar Energi Concept electric car is comprised of high-tech solar panels, built by specialists SunPower, which feature a magnifying-glass-style concentrator lens to get the most from the sun's rays. And, not content with boosting the concentration of these rays by eight times, the panels also tracks the sun as it crosses the sky from east to west.

Ford's research suggests that panels like these could eventually enable drivers to harness solar power for as much as 75% of their travels, and the manufacturers will now partner with Georgia Tech to test the vehicle for its viability as a production car.


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