Automakers continued the trend of increasing their presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2013. Most big car companies were represented--even Subaru showed off an upgraded headunit--while some beefed up their exhibit booths significantly.

There are still some asking if CES is the right place to show off the latest automotive innovations, considering all the dedicated auto shows the industry already enjoys. Thankfully, carmakers seem to understand CES is more about onboard apps than horsepower. This year's automotive theme at CES was clearly autonomous vehicles. More and more cars are coming to market equipped with technologies like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, electric power steering and advanced GPS. With each broadly adopted active technology, we take another step toward self-driving cars.

It's already been proven that cars can pilot themselves with existing technology. Now it comes down to the nearer-term applications for autonomous operation.

Audi showed off an A7 with a self-parking feature, which illustrates how a partially autonomous car could take on mundane tasks to save drivers time.

The car can be dropped off at a parking facility and escort itself inside with the tap of a smartphone app. The car will then search for a spot and park itself. The driver even receives a notification on their phone once the car is safely parked. And when the driver returns to the parking structure, they can retrieve their car using the same app.

Perhaps most revolutionary is that Audi avoided large roof-mounted scanning equipment, like that found on Google's self-driving car, by developing a smaller scanner that can be integrated into current designs.

Take the technology with a grain of salt, though. Audi says the system requires some infrastructure outside of the car, like sensors on parking spots.


Projecting a bit further into the future, Toyota wonders if our streets will look different once all cars have become fully autonomous. Will there be a need for traffic signals or pedestrian crossings, or will you be able to just cross the street whenever you like and have cars slow and go around you?

That's what Toyota is studying at their Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Toyota City, Japan. An 8.6-acre testing facility was designed to create real-life traffic situations to better understand what the future will be like with autonomous driving. Much of the technology demoed at the facility is vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication--technologies that have the potential to solve many of the issues plaguing drivers today.

Toyota showcased their self-driving technology at CES with the Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle at CES, a Lexus equipped with an assortment of external lasers, cameras and sensors. Toyota's system runs in the 700 MHz spectrum, which has wider transmission/reception properties needed for a more reliable system.

While autonomous driving isn't here yet, there are many breakthroughs coming from all corners of the industry. There has always been a recognized need, due to convenience and safety, but now the economics of autonomous systems are starting to make more sense.

TRANSLOGIC 121: CES 2013 Autonomous Cars

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