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The Future of Car Technology, as Seen at CES 2023

The Wall Street Journal · 01/07/2023 08:46

By Ryan Felton

Color-changing cars. Flying taxis. And a gaming-style tablet that can steer a vehicle.

Car companies descended on CES in Las Vegas this week to show off their latest ideas -- some quirky and far out, others more relevant in the near term -- as the industry navigates technological shifts in its business.

During the week, car executives unveiled new in-car software, hyped automated-driving tech, and highlighted new partnerships and investment deals. Auto makers in recent years have accelerated the rollout of their new battery-powered models.

The gathering fell against the backdrop of a toughening economic environment for car manufacturers. This same week, the U.S. auto industry posted its worst sales year in more than a decade. Still, executives are trying to keep their eyes -- and investments -- fixed on the future.

Here are some highlights from the tech show:

Honda and Sony reveal electric-car brand Afeela

Honda Motor Co. and Sony Group Corp. said last year that they were joining forces to build electric vehicles with plans to begin selling a car later this decade.

At CES, their joint venture, Sony Honda Mobility Inc., showed off a new prototype sedan and unveiled plans for a new brand, to be called Afeela.

The brand name is meant to represent the act of feeling, which the venture says is at the center of the mobility experience, according to a description on the Sony Honda Mobility website.

Sony Honda said it aims to develop a suite of technology to allow the car to pilot itself in certain urban settings. The prototype featured 45 cameras and sensors inside and out.

Preorders for its first production model, which will be based on the prototype, start in the first half of 2025. The venture plans to start delivering the vehicle to customers in North America the following year.

Chrysler-owner Stellantis makes a big splash

Global auto maker Stellantis NV used CES to unleash a torrent of news. It revealed a new fully electric pickup truck to be sold under its Ram brand, a model that is to go up against similar battery-powered truck offerings from chief rivals Ford and Chevrolet. That truck is expected to debut in 2024.

The car company also showed off a new cockpit design for its Chrysler-branded vehicles and an electric concept sedan for Peugeot, called the Innovation, that Stellantis says aims for 500 miles in battery range.

The Peugeot concept also had an unusual feature: a tablet screen that replaces the traditional steering wheel to control driving.

Stellantis also said this week that it would deepen its partnership with flying taxi startup Archer Aviation Inc. It plans to build Archer's first aircraft in 2024 and aims to be its exclusive contract manufacturer.

Chief Executive Carlos Tavares gave a keynote address at the show, during which he talked up new automated-driving features and software that can adapt the car to driver's preferences. He later warned, while talking to reporters, that the high cost of developing electric-vehicle technology could lead it to idle additional plants, following last month's news that it was indefinitely stopping work at a factory in Belvidere, Ill.

Volkswagen debuts electric sedan

Volkswagen AG took the wraps off a new EV concept, called the ID.7., that had a digital camouflage exterior and paintwork that lights up. The auto maker described it as a near production version and said it is expected to have a battery range of about 435 miles under European standards.

The concept version of the ID.7, one of 10 new EV models VW says it plans to launch by 2026, came equipped with a 15-inch infotainment screen and a number of tech features, including an augmented-reality display. It showcased tech that can detect when a driver is approaching the car and begin cooling or heating the vehicle depending on the exterior temperature.

The production version of the ID.7 will be shown in the second quarter, VW said.

Mercedes-Benz plans a global charging network

Mercedes-Benz AG revealed plans to build out its global network of electric-vehicle chargers, similar to Tesla's popular Supercharger stations.

As part of the plan, it intends to install roughly 10,000 high-power EV chargers worldwide, beginning this year in the U.S. and Canada. The Mercedes-Benz-branded network would allow the company's customers to pre-book a charging space for their car, but would also be open to drivers of rival brands with compatible technology.

"This is one of the building blocks that will perhaps persuade even more customers to jump into the EV side of the Mercedes-Benz," Chief Executive Ola Källenius said.

By 2027, its network in North America is expected to total more than 400 hubs, providing 2,500 EV chargers.

BMW shows color-changing car concept

BMW unveiled a new concept called the i Vision Dee showcasing what the future of the interior and exterior of a vehicle could be. "Dee" stands for digital emotional experience, the company said.

The concept features technology that could change the car's exterior to 32 different colors and a massive head-up display that spans the width of the windshield.

BMW said the i Vision Dee aims to create stronger interactions between the driver and the car, and it plans to make it available on certain specialized models from 2025 onward.

Write to Ryan Felton at ryan.felton@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 07, 2023 08:46 ET (13:46 GMT)

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