CES 2016: this is what the future will look like

Faraday Future tries hard to be taken seriously. On their press fact sheet, the first adjective the electric automaker uses to describe itself is “well-funded”. The organisation stresses that their Senior Vice President used to work at Tesla; that their Head of Global Design drew the shapes of BMW’s i series of electric cars. Faraday Future argues that it has the resources and the talent to reshape the auto industry, and even our urban landscape: “So much of the future depends on how we get there”, speaks a clean-voiced male narrator, “so come with us”.

The night before the opening of CES 2016, Faraday Future is holding their first-ever press conference. While CES has always been about consumer technology before all else (automakers conventionally display later in the year at Geneva or Detroit), Faraday Future’s event is the hottest ticket in Las Vegas. In a clean white room, Nick Sampson takes to the stage, and states in a recognisably English accent that the organisation will “be more like a technology company rather than an automotive company”.

Later in the presentation, attention switches away from specifications, and moves towards the centre of the stage, where there is a large car, hidden under a white sheet. The lights dim, climactic music plays, and Faraday Future’s first concept car is unveiled. The FFZERO1 is startling. As projections bounce off the car’s dramatic bodywork, it is hard to work out whether the design looks more like the Bugatti Veyron or the Batmobile. The fantastical concept car is a high performance spectacle – but oddly, the audience of technology journalists leaves the event severely disappointed.

Running up to the presentation, it seemed that Faraday Future – a company that is only 18 months old – was about to fully articulate the future of mobility. The rise of self-driving cars enables a complete change in the automobile’s ownership model: instead of people owning their cars, users could simply request a vehicle on their phones when they needed one. Much like taxis, self-driving cars would always be moving, picking people up and taking them where they need to go. It is effectively Uber taken to its furthest extrapolation: “What if you didn’t so much own a car, as use one whenever you needed?” asks a promotional clip by Faraday Future, which then agues that their portrayed vision would allow cities to claim back the huge amounts of urban space previously taken up by car parks.

But the FFZERO1, a high-performance concept car which was designed to deliver the best driving experience possible, does not really fit into this self-driving car future. While electric vehicles and autonomous systems are still developing technologies, Faraday Future’s decision to exhibit the insane FFZERO1 made the company appear as if they were out of step with their own ideas. For many of the audience members, it felt like the presentation undercut everything Faraday Future did to seem legitimate and capable of delivering their bigger vision.

Also at CES, Chevrolet exhibited their new Bolt EV. Designed to push electric cars into the mainstream, the Bolt has a family-friendly design, a long-range battery, and a welcoming price tag. It quickly became one of the biggest stars of the entire technology show.

General Motors, who own Chevrolet, recently invested $500 million USD into Lyft – an on-demand ride sharing app that competes directly with Uber. USA Today reports that the Bolt EV was designed with this deal in mind. The partnership will see GM providing cars to Lyft drivers, and the newspaper comments upon the suitability of the Bolt EV for the purpose of ferrying people around.

Crucially, the deals also involves GM and Lyft working together on autonomous driving systems. Looking at the Bolt EV, we can trace out the same intrinsic vision as Faraday Future: it seems that GM is working towards  building out fleets of self-driving cars, which through Lyft you can request whenever you need them.

As more car announcements are made at the technology-focused CES show, it is clear that the huge auto industry is preparing for monumentally big changes. If this core vision pushes forward, cars could be transformed into a service to which you subscribe, like Spotify or Microsoft Office. Perhaps this is why journalists did not respect the individual desirability of the FFZERO1, preferring the utility of the Bolt EV. At CES 2016, amongst the TVs, PCs and wearables, the car became  just another piece of technology.

Our favourites from Vegas:

Sony PS-HX5000

Thanks to the resurgence in vinyl, Sony’s biggest unveiling at CES 2016 was a record player. While the technology might seem old, the turntable looks futuristic, with an incredibly sleek black look.

Image: Sony

Image: Sony

 

Razer Blade Stealth

What does the ‘Stealth’ part of this laptop’s name refer to? Firstly, it is a thin, sleek and black ultrabook that can easily run Microsoft Office. But when you get home, you can connect this laptop via Thunderbolt to the ‘Razer Core’, which lends enough firepower for the computer to become seriously good at gaming.

Volkswagen BUDD-e

Trying to shake the dirt from its recent emissions scandal, Volkswagen unveiled a futuristic long-range electric car that takes the old Microbus as its starting point. The  car responds to voice commands: “Hey BUDD-e! Open the door!” Sadly, it is just a concept.

Image: Volkswagen

Image: Volkswagen

 

Misfit Ray

The Ray does everything you would expect a fitness tracker to, with one extra: it looks really good. The technology is fitted into a metal tube that can be worn as bracelet or even as a necklace.

Everything Else

Walls of TVs. Skies of drones. Too many Internet of Things devices to count. Many food stalls. Sounds like heaven to me.

Featured Image: Faraday Future

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