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Automakers Take CES by Storm

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Ford

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Ford (F) announced yesterday, a major revamp of its SYNC in-car infotainment system, which now includes a more user friendly and intuitive interface, and voice notifications. The system will be natively embedded in Ford’s new Mustang, and will eventually make its way onto most Ford vehicles by the end of the year. The SYNC platform delivers a cloud-based voice recognition system that responds to the user’s commands.

Ford also unveiled its new C-Max Solar Energi Concept vehicle that incorporates roof-mounted solar panels to power its electric drivetrain. The concept is being touted as an alternative to conventional battery electric vehicles that require drivers to stop and plug in their vehicles to recharge the batteries. The C-Max Solar Engeri uses a “concentrator lens” to focus the sun’s rays onto the solar panels, charging the batteries enough in a full day to let the car run for 21 miles on solar energy alone.

BMW

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BMW (BAMXY) made its presence felt at CES 2014 by showing off its new i3 electric vehicle that is due to make its way into the US market in the second quarter of this year. The i3 and the i8 have been generating a lot of hype in recent months, but this was the first time that a key feature of the next generation BMW cars was shown off – automated parking.

While this particular feature has already been seen in cars like Toyota Motors’ (TM) Lexus models, BMW’s parallel parking system is unique in that it does not require the driver to have his hands on the steering wheel or the gas pedal. Drivers only need to press a button to keep the automated parking activated. The automated parallel parking system will be available as an optional feature on the BMW i3.

Audi

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Audi made a grand entrance at CES this year, with a self-driving A7 guiding itself onto the stage in the presence of a fascinated crowd. Audi is promoting the concept of ‘piloted driving’ to provide customers with a superior driving experience, aided by an array of lasers, radar sensors, and cameras.

The concept A7 vehicle on display at the event was in itself a sight to behold, with its laser-powered headlamps a sign of the technology to come in the years ahead. The company also revealed its Sport Quattro Laserlight concept car, which showcases laser headlights that promise enhanced visibility on the roads without dazzling oncoming traffic.

AT&T (T), also present at Audi’s event, announced its new partnership with the German luxury car maker to bring 4G LTE to its vehicles. Audi also announced a key partnership with Google Inc. (GOOG) and its Open Automotive Alliance to bring native Android OS to vehicles in order to make them smarter and connect with existing consumer devices.

Tesla Motors

Although Tesla Motors’ (TSLA) Model S was noticeably absent from this year’s CES, the company was nonetheless in the news at the show for its partnership with AT&T to bring 4G LTE technology in its electric cars. Tesla already has a system in its cars which allows data from every single Model S to be relayed back to the manufacturer, to provide it with essential information about the car’s telemetries.

Toyota

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It seems as though most people had forgotten about hydrogen fuel-cell cars since the advent of hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles, which are increasingly seen on the country’s roads. Toyota is getting serious about hydrogen fill-ups though, and is bringing the technology to the US this year. The company gave a sneak peak of its highly efficient next generation vehicle yesterday, to the audience at CES 2014.

The company had already unveiled its latest prototype at the Tokyo Motor Show in November, and provided some more details on the version, which gives cost savings of almost 95% and is slated for launch in 2015. Toyota also announced that it was working to bring hydrogen fueling stations to the US, and is targeting 20 stations by 2015. It expects the number to double in 2016, as the country increasingly goes green.

Pandora

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The world’s most popular internet radio service, Pandora (P), announced yesterday, that it would launch 15- and 30-second audio advertisements for automobile listeners. The best thing is that the frequency of these ads will be a lot less for those using Pandora’s service in their car. As many as 130 different car models in the US currently integrate Pandora into their infotainment systems. The move is likely to boost revenues for the company by helping it sell targeted ads for car radio listeners.

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