BMW’s driverless car tech is the most advanced, drifts around CES

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This yeah CES was infiltrated by automotive companies as they struggle to work out how our connected lives work on the road. While some car companies where there to show off their latest technology, some lent their car to other tech companies to draw a crowd at their booth. Ford, BMW, Chrysler, General Motors, Mercedes, Toyota, Kia and Mazda are all at the show this year despite the fact the North American International Auto Show is only 4 days away. Probably the most impressive showing was the Lamborghini Veneno, one of only 4 in the world and worth $4.5 Million US dollars, which had a $50,000 audio system by Monster.

Most companies were talking about their technology inside the cars which fits well with the CES audience. While there was some definitely improvements in lane guidance instrument clusters and wireless charging, the best #cartech at the show was by BMW. Sure, the likes of Google, Toyota and Ford are all working on the problem, but their demos always contain vehicles in very controlled conditions.

The most impressive to date, had been the Google self-driving cars which have clocked up hundreds of thousands of miles on real roads. The problem is, we never see them, especially in difficult and real, real situations.

What BMW demonstrated was something special, something spectacular in fact. The arranged the self-driving car to hit a pool of water at speed and mid-corner. This scenario happens all the time in everyday life and wet, changing conditions can often be the source of accidents as our puny human brains try to react. When you really think about what’s involved in achieving this, it’s pretty stunning, not only is there steering angle, acceleration and braking to consider, but suspension, grip levels and surface tension between the rubber and the tarmac. All that that information is then compared with the desired path and adjusted multiple times per second, this is seriously impressive work BMW.

It’s demonstrations like this one, that really show that sensors and lasers combined with sophisticated algorithms can control the car better than humans. The car powers through the turn and for a period of time is actually drifting.

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As a racing fan, I’d love to see a driverless car perform the perfect drift which in theory is now possible, a task that takes drivers years to master.

Audi are also doing great work in driverless vehicles with sophisticated lane detection systems and demonstrated this on Vegas highways. As we continue to see fatalities on our roads due to distracted drivers, usually texting, this technology needs to arrive fast. You know how many texts you can safely send while your car drives for you? As many as you like.

What’s amazing is the progress Audi have made in just 12 months. Last year they needed a whole boot full of electronics to manage the sensors and laser inputs around the car. This year they’ve miniaturized the system to be the size of a motherboard. Audi aren’t stopping there, they also featured heavily during the Nvidia press conference at CES and were announced as one of the first manufactures who will integrate their new 192-core Tegra K1 chip.

The 2015 version of Audi’s A3 will become a true connected car, becoming one of the first to have a dedicated LTE hotspot on AT&T which supports up to 8 devices. When it comes to cartech at CES, there’s no doubt in my mind, Audi won hands down.

The lucky son of a bitch Chris Ziegler (@zpower) had the chance to sit in the driver seat (aka new passenger seat) while the BMW showed off its tricks. Below that video is one from Forbes where they had a ride in the car along a Vegas highway. While Audi give themselves 5 years or around 2019 for this to hit the road, the reporter, like me believe Audi will pull it off in less than that, even as soon as 2-3 years away. Make no mistake, driverless cars will go through legislation issues, but it’s an all out war for the auto companies to deliver the future first.