Staggering Innovations in Car Tech at CES 2023

Color-changing cars, next-level autonomous driving tech, and more wowed audiences at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Beyond RAM Revolution

Ram 1500 Revolution Concept - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
Ram 1500 Revolution Concept - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

The biggest automotive headline out of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas was undoubtedly the unveiling of Stellantis’ new RAM 1500 Revolution electric pickup. While features like “Shadow Mode” and an 18-foot passthrough are certainly impressive (read more here), there was a lot more impressive automotive tech on display than just the new RAM. From color changing cars to solar powered ones, we have all the latest innovations out of CES below.

BMW i Vision Dee

If you have ever gotten home with your new car and regretted your choice of paint jobs, the new i Vision Dee concept from BMW has the solution, color changing on the fly. This small sedan is packed boundary-pushing digital features, the most notable of which are its 240-color changing digital panels. These panels offer up to 32 different colors and can speedily shift through combinations. It is not the static effect of a chameleon blending in so much as it is the dynamic, hypnotic lightshow of a cuttlefish.

The i Vision Dee likewise dazzles inside. The stripped-down design of the dash is the product of BMW engineers moving most of the vehicles digital interface to voice command and the screens, for both the gauge cluster and infotainment onto the windshield. A touch-sensitive dashboard, aka the Mixed Reality Slider, is there as an additional interface. BMW says they plan to have features from the i Vision Dee into production vehicles by 2025.

Honda, Sony Launch EV Brand Afeela

Afeela from Honda and Sony - insideevs.com
Afeela from Honda and Sony - insideevs.com

Sony and Honda have been teasing their joint EV venture for a few years now. Their latest concept, showcased at CES, comes with an official brand for the line of EVs, Afeela. Honda will be covering most of the car part of the equation, the hardware of chassis, body, drivetrain, etc. as well as aftermarket servicing. Per Sony’s wheelhouse, they will be covering the car’s vast and complex software and array of cameras and sensors. The latter two will facilitate car’s autonomous driving capabilities along with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Digital Chassis for Level 2 autonomy out of the box and Level 3 “under limited conditions.” (For an explainer on autonomous driving levels and what they mean, click here.)

The car itself is a standard EV for what is in (or soon to be in) the market, that is to say stylish, streamlined, and more than a little conservative. Honda and Sony say their emphasis with Afeela will be leaning on Sony’s expertise in delivering a high-quality digital experience, rather than pushing horsepower numbers and 0-60 times of many current EVs.

Inside the Afeela concept we see the standard dash-spanning screen housing two digital displays, a rotary dial on the center console for redundant infotainment control (nice!), and a Telsa-like yoke replacing the steering wheel (not so nice). In all the interior looks cleanly laid out and comfortable.

Chrysler’s New Synthesis Cockpit

Chrysler Synthesis Cockpit - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
Chrysler Synthesis Cockpit - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

Chrysler did not have any cars at CES this year. What they did have was the new Synthesis Cockpit Simulator, there to illustrate the company’s approach to interior spaces for autonomous vehicles. The “driverless” cockpit features two gigantic 37.5-inch digital displays housing everything from a virtual assistant to infotainment, all under the auspices of the STLA Brain operating system. This will also be the passengers’ sole interface, no pedal or steering wheel needed since such autonomous vehicles will be operating via AutoDrive Level 3.

Lightyear 2 Concept

Lightyear 2 - lightyear.one
Lightyear 2 - lightyear.one

One of the most compelling concepts at CES this year was the new Lightyear 2, the next evolution of the solar-powered Lightyear Zero. That car was a limited-production vehicle carrying a hefty price tag of over $250,000. The new Lightyear 2 is planned for a much wider production and a significantly lower price point. The main attraction is of course the Lightyear 2’s ability to complement its charge with solar power. The company claims the new Lightyear 2 will produce half the emissions of traditional EVs and offer over 500 miles of range. Even more ambitious is the starting price which, fingers crossed, will start at under $40,000. Production on the Lightyear 2 is slated to begin in 2025.

Mercedes Gets Dolby Atmos & EV Charging

Mercedes with Dolby Atmos - group-media.mercedes-benz.com
Mercedes with Dolby Atmos - group-media.mercedes-benz.com

Mercedes offered up two notables from CES. The first is a partnership with Dolby for a new ultra-premium stereo experience for Mercedes-Maybach owners. Typically the province of theaters and high-end home stereo systems, new Mercedes-Maybachs will have access to Dolby Atmos’ high-fidelity acoustics for an “immersive surround sound experience.”

In addition to cool stereo systems, Mercedes also announced a new EV charging network initiative for the US, European, and Chinese markets. The network would be comprised of up to 10,000 350kW chargers with a targeted deployment of 2027. This would include some 400 charging stations across the US. Mercedes said owners will be able to make charging reservations at stations to ensure a spot will be available upon arrival.

Volkswagen ID.7

Volkswagen ID.7 - media.vw.com
Volkswagen ID.7 - media.vw.com

Volkswagen displayed the latest in their ID line of electric vehicles, the ID.7. This mid-sized electric sedan is roughly the same dimensions as the Arteon, making it that car’s eventual electrified successor and the flagship for the ID line of EVs. Volkswagen kept the ID.7 in camo, in anticipation of a full release later in the year, but that did not stop them from making the ID.7 a head turner. That is thanks to the concept car’s 40 ultra-thin layers of electroluminescent paint, some which include phosphorous, which allow the body panels of ID.7 to produce a psychedelic light show. Other tech innovations in the ID.7 include an augmented reality heads-up display and smart air vents which automatically adjust output based on the amount of sunlight each passenger is receiving. Volkswagen says they will have the ID.7 to market in Europe by late 2023 and shipped to US shores in 2024.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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