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Volkswagen fleshes out Digital Key and User-ID personalization technologies at CES

All of this newfangled tech should be in production by 2020.

Today at CES, Volkswagen fleshed out some of the technologies that will enhance the company's future vehicles, and in particular the autonomous vehicles VW promises to have on the road by 2025. The technologies are more iterative than innovative, but taken together perhaps they'll sweeten the deal for early adopters a few years from now.

Perhaps the most important is the User-ID profile, which allows vehicle preferences like ambient lighting settings and dash display configurations to be stored to an individual user profile. It'll also allow passengers to bring outside media content – say, an audio book you started listening to at home – into the car.

That's all great, but where things get interesting is how User-ID meshes up with the Digital Key functionality. We first saw the Digital Key tech at the 2015 CES show, so it's not a new concept. Up until now, it's only worked with the e-Golf, and allowed owners to open up or close the car with a smartphone. Now, the Digital Key is imprinted with an owner's User-ID settings, so getting into the car using your Digital Key will import your preferences.

You will also be able to use the Digital Key to set access rights. Some are time-based; maybe you set it up so your new teen driver can't sneak off with the car after you're asleep. Or you can unlock the trunk so a delivery service can drop off a package – something that other automakers have been thinking about, too. The implications for car-sharing services, like VW's own MOIA, are obvious.

Like many other automakers at CES, VW also announced that it is integrating Alexa Voice Services with its Car-Net connected telematics services. Basically, that means that you'll be able to use Alexa to access the services and apps that Car-Net talks to, and also to control the same functions outside of the car.

There's an evolved version of Digital Cockpit utilizing twin stacked screens technology to provide a 3D effect. Adding some depth to the display, VW says, should make it easier to navigate. The other in-car tech VW showed off is eye-tracking, which means that cars so equipped should be able to turn off displays or animations when the driver isn't looking at them. That will probably provide a benefit in terms of driver distraction.

Lastly, there's an updated HUD system that displays on two "planes". Data that's important to the immediate situation, like navigation cues, will be projected at what appears to be several feet in front of the car. Less pertinent information, like what radio station is being listened to, will appear closer to the base of the windshield. That should make it easier and more natural for drivers to focus on the important info, which is projected out closer to where they're already looking.

It's not clear when these technologies will roll out, or what vehicles will feature them, but things like the smartphone key and user profiles, Alexa integration, and 3D gauge clusters will be in production by 2020.

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