Sadly, there weren’t any examples of pairings between connected cars and drones this year, even though that is so obviously a match made in heaven. Why use a dreary, boring crowd-sourced traffic information overlay on your in-car navigation system when you can send up your own drone from the roof of your car and see for yourself which are the congested routes?
Last year Renault showed just such a pairing as part of a ‘concept’; it’s been a whole year since then, and still the automobile industry has utterly failed to offer us a working car-launched drone. What do these people do all day?
Instead, we get something called DroneMobile, which – get this – does not include any kind of flying craft at all. It’s just an app, available for both iOS and Android devices, that lets you control your car’s systems remotely – you know, start it remotely, lock or unlock the doors, switch on the aircon or heating, that sort of thing. And you can find where you’ve parked it, if you are dopey enough to have forgotten, and you can get alerts if it’s broken into, or leaves a pre-defined geo-fenced area, or goes above a certain speed. Without the flying craft, though, it is completely unable to give you real time video to go with those notifications, so you can’t have the thrill of following that stolen or speeding vehicle across town on screen. So disappointing.
Forgetting where you’ve parked your car is obviously a bigger problem than was previously recognised, because there seem to be quite a few technology-based solutions to this. There’s this one, from Turkish mobile operator Avea, which is not only an app but also incorporates a Bluetooth low energy beacon, so that you can find your car even in underground car parks where there is neither GPS signal nor mobile data connection. The best thing about this is that the app provides a ‘radar’ type screen with hotter/colder type indication as you get closer to your car, so you could use it to play a high-tech version of hunt the thimble.
And iOnRoad, which promises to “turn your smartphone into a personal driving assistant”, incorporates a car finder into its much broader functionality, which includes warnings when you are getting too near to the car in front, lane alerts, and (for the premium, paid-for version) video recording like the dashboard cameras that everyone has in Russia. The basic app is free, and no new hardware apart from your smartphone is needed, though you will need something to attach it to the windscreen – selling these is part of the iOnRoad business model.
The most fun things at CES were probably not the most important. It’s hard not to like BMWs self-parking car, previewed before the show in this video, which includes an in-built robot valet that will retrieve your car from its parking space and bring it to you; of course, you summon it with a smart watch. But it’s just a research demonstration, with no date for when it will be a product.
Perhaps more important, or at least more real, was AT&T’s raft of new partnership announcements for its Drive Studio (itself announced at CES 2014). These included consumer electronics giant Samsung and car maker Subaru, as well as five developers – Aetherpal, Audiobooks, Dash Radio, EventSeeker and Glympse. And chip-maker Nvdia announced a new chip, the Tegra X1, that will ultimately provide the processing heavy lifting to support applications like autonomous driving; that’s almost certainly one of the most important things that anyone said at CES. But not nearly as much fun as a car-launched drone, is it?
If none of this has affected your blood pressure at all, then how about the CES launch of the Lamborghini ‘luxury smartphone’? This costs USD6000 but does absolutely nothing that a bog-standard Android phone can’t do. But it is gold-plated, and covered in hand-stitched leather, and it does have 13 “exclusive ring tones” Further proof, if any were needed, of the persistence of the ‘stupid rich’ market segment.