A generation ago, technology in the car could have meant fuel injection, or a driver airbag, or even a CD player. Today, if you're driving a car without some sort of touchscreen, Bluetooth, or an infotainment system, you're living in a rapidly disappearing past.
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is where automakers are coming in increasing numbers to show off how advanced their vehicles have become--to map out the intersection of tomorrow's cars and tomorrow's technology.
This year, the big stories covered the usual science-fiction-sounding topics: cars that drive themselves, laser headlights, high-speed connectivity on the go, and wall-to-wall (or door-to-door) infotainment:
Google AndroidEnlarge Photo
Android in the car. While Apple fanbois wait out the arrival of Siri Eyes Free in their next car, a consortium of automakers is teaming up with Google to develop a new car operating system standard based on the rival Android platform. GM, Honda, Hyundai and Audi are among the companies that will work together for a new information core that will underpin everything from vehicle-to-vehicle communication to infotainment systems.
WIreless smartphone chargingEnlarge Photo
Wireless smartphone charging. It's not a new concept for the desktop, but wireless smartphone charging is now headed to the car. At CES, automakers including Kia and Audi showed integrations of the technology in concepts, and Audi officials said that it's likely the setup will be available on the upcoming 2015 Audi A4.
Audi sport quattro laserlight conceptEnlarge Photo
Laser headlights. With LED headlights just making a splash in new vehicles, the next frontier is already in the mock-up stage: laser headlights. The Audi Sport Quattro Laserlight concept shown at CES offered a hint at how the technology would work in production, with the lasers used for high-beam lighting that can cast a beam of up to 500 yards. Audi says it will first use the beams on its Le Mans racing effort this year, while a production version for passenger cars is promised "soon."