While many have deemed the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) as the one that kicks off the auto show season, the truth is that CES (which used to stand for Consumer Electronics Show but now the organizers just want to call it CES) really starts it off the first week of January. How can we say this? Because the major automotive manufacturers show a future concept during a press conference here, including some manufacturers who don’t go to Detroit, i.e., Faraday Future, which finally showed its all-electric ride. But the first press conference of all of CES was by FCA, which debuted the Chrysler Portal Concept, the future of family mobility. Here’s our rundown of the automotive-related coolness from CES.
Chrysler Portal Concept
Since Chrysler claims the minivan invention, it only makes sense that it’s the brand to introduce future millennial families to their future mode of transportation, with a vehicle designed and built by millennials. Powered solely by a lithium-ion battery (what, no dilithium crystals?), the front-drive Portal estimates a 250-mile range on a full charge, and the battery placement is under the floor so it’s flat for loading and passenger space. To check the Portal’s state of charge, all you need do is look at the front fascia, which will pulsate when receiving power.
The Portal will be autonomous, with Level 3 capability. This means it can see its location as well as the surrounding environment. Translated, the Portal will feature 360 cameras, radar, LIDAR, ultrasonic sensors, GPS, internet/cloud connectivity and mega-fast decision-making computer modules. A driver still can have control, but the vehicle will monitor inputs and take over if necessary to avoid collisions. (Open the pod doors, HAL.)
As far as interior usability, the Portal concept focuses on “third space,” or the middle ground between work and home life. The interior is an open concept, with a clear roof panel, large greenhouse, and lots of gray and neutral shades. LED accent lighting will allow occupants to custom design their space. An accent color orange, called Camelian, encircles the interior as well as accents parts of the instrument cluster and other detail areas. Synthetic leathers (no real animal hides as to not offend any of the sensitive types), high-gloss black areas, textured trim on the seats and doors, and a bit of brushed and polished aluminum trim finishes off the look. The standout feature is the floor, which is made of acrylic, which creates a floating effect for the seats. It looks good, but wait until winter when the brown snow cakes underneath. Guess that’s why they call it a concept.
The display is center high mounted, and features Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode, or AMOLED. It matches to a charging rail system and storage tray so occupants can clip on their mobile devices directly to the rail for charging. The steering wheel is basically two hand grips with touch pads that can control the display menu. It also folds and stows for more room when in autonomous mode. The interior seating is modular to fit the expanding or shrinking family. It seats a maximum of six, and all seats are on tracks so they can adjust anywhere, as well as stow away when not needed. The controls rely on biometrics, or face and voice ID to send requests. It’s all plug and play, so you can, as they said during the press conference, “create karaoke videos while you drive.” Lucky us.
Outside, the Portal Concept definitely look like a minivan of the future. There’s an LED light ring that surrounds the five-foot wide portal door opening (think Star Trek again), and the glass slide doors incorporated a floating solid insert to carry over the floating interior theme. While the Portal Concept is a decade away (so are millennial families, for that matter), there are some good ideas here that will make perfect sense in 2026. Although by that time karaoke might be replaced by actual holograms of your favorite artists beamed into the vehicle.
While all future vehicles will do the exact same things, such as be autonomous driving, offers infotainment and connectivity galore, and make life happy-go-lucky as it measures our well-being, manufacturers are approaching it from different angles. Toyota’s approach is forming a relationship between the vehicle and the driver, or what it calls kinetic warmth. The press conference was more about the future of autonomous cars, going over all five levels of autonomous driving, which was interesting, but not to the common man who just wants to get in and go, much like they don’t really care how a car works. Toyota’s vision is to have a personal assistant in the vehicle that you can communicate with inside or outside the vehicle. This floating voice, called Yui (pronounced You-ee), travels around the vehicle and can greet you outside or focus on passengers inside. It uses lights and sound to not only keep you informed, but keep tabs on your mental and physical state so it can be ready to take over the controls if necessary when you start to drift to sleep or get agitated. Concept-I was created at Toyota’s CALTY design Research center in Southern California, but worked with Toyota’s Innovation Hub in San Francisco.
Both Ford and Hyundai showed off their integrated home/life/car connections, with Hyundai pairing with Google Home and Ford partnering with Alexa from Amazon. It’s about seamless integration through voice communication. Ask for anything and get it. From starting your car, setting the temp, transferring movies from your home tv to the car, ordering dinner to be delivered to home when you’re driving, and more.
Hyundai also took the home/car concept a step further by showing a home living room where the car is actually docked to the wall, and the car becomes the entertainment center, a sitting area, and in total control. It’s a great idea to make the car part of the house to make it easy to unload groceries or jump in and go. Not sure what happens to the wall of the house once the car is gone, however.
Nissan BladeGlider and Nissan Leaf
Nissan’s focus is on Seamless Autonomous Mobility, or SAM. Developed from NASA technology, SAM pairs artificial intelligence with human support to help autonomous vehicles make instant decisions in unpredictable situations in order to keep occupants safe. Nissan’s focus is on Intelligent mobility, with Intelligent Driving, Intelligent Power, Intelligent Integration, all working together to make sure all elements operate seamlessly and safely. The future for Nissan is the BladeGlide, a zero-emissions full-electric vehicle that seats three. The BladeGlider isn’t new, but shows where Nissan’s headed in the power department.
The next-gen Nissan Leaf will feature ProPILOT, enabling autonomous driving functionality for single-lane highway driving. First announced in July 2016, ProPilot is available in Japan, and uses a combination of steering, throttle, and braking that operate fully automatically, for vehicle control in heavy stop-and-go traffic. Much like Volvo’s system, the Leaf will be able to recognize if the vehicle in front is stopped, and will come to a full stop behind it, as well as go ahead when the vehicle in front resumes acceleration. It also will keep the vehicle in its lane using the lane departure system. It also can control the vehicle in curves, not just straight line. ProPilot is ithe Nissan Serena in Japan, and we assume Nissan will continue the rollout of the feature on future Nissan vehicles.
Faraday Future FF91
Whenever a new car company comes online, bets are placed as to whether it will be a success or not. Those who bet on Kia long ago have lost their shirts. Those who bet on Faraday Future might have a bit longer to wait to collect. Faraday Future finally unveiled its FF91 all-electric SUV-ish vehicle at CES. That skepticism revolves around many rumors that the company may not be as financially solvent as it claims. Reports of management leaving and payments missed, as well as construction halted at its north Las Vegas location may or may not be true. But FF insists all is well and on schedule. Business dealings aside, the new FF91 is attractive in a futuristic way. It’s long, curvy, and feature what FF calls “UFO” lines. Integrated flying buttresses, LED lights all around and BeamCast blades that function as a Wi-Fi hotspot as well as aerodynamic benefits add to the UFO look. Forged aluminum 22-inch Aerologic wheels look good and proportional,
The FF91 features an identification profile that learns everything about you, from how you like your seat positioned to your choice of music. And it uses AI to learn more about you the more you drive it. There’s also Arrival Interface, that uses facial recognition for entry and starting, with a readout on the B-pillar with your name as a greeting. Also standard is zero-gravity seating that reclines so you can relax when not driving, with a massaging feature to reduce stress. A smart-glass moonroof with Eclipse Mode features clear glass at night for star gazing, but then can instantly darken to provide protection from the sun or for privacy. The FF seats five passengers, and claims more rear seat room than any vehicle currently for sale.
FF claims the FF91 will be the first production vehicle with 3D lidar technology, which uses laser pulses to scan its surroundings to orient itself. It pops up from the hood when in self-driving mode. The entire vehicle features a combination of 30 cameras, radars and ultrasonic sensors to provide a 360-degree view. It also offers a feature called Driverless Valet, that cuts out the middle man and the tipping by dropping you off and then going to find a parking space. It can come get you also, when you use the app to call it to your location.
The FF91 is an all-electric vehicle and features a patented FF Echelon Inverter, which is compact, simplified, yet achieves 20-30 percent greater power density. Standard multi-motor configuration delivers more torque in a direct and quick route to each wheel. The FF91 claims to make over 1,000 horsepower as well. It still uses lithium-ion batteries. This helps deliver an estimated driving range of 370 miles.
Much like current manufacturers, the FF91 is built on a Variable Platform Architecture, or VPA, that’s modular, with the battery pack residing below the floor for a lower center of gravity. In addition, the frame is ballistic grade to help reduce side impact intrusion. FF uses digital modeling and 3D printing to engineer new components for use in testing of parts and designs.
While production has yet to commence, interested parties can get a priority reservation with an initial deposit of $5,000, or jump to an Alliance Edition that’s one of only 300 models, personalized to your preferences, and featuring an edition-exclusive paint: Silicon Valley Aluminum. This extra bonus also gives you entry to an exclusive member benefit called the Futurist Club. Regular schlubs can book a spot without priority for when the FF91 actually comes up for sale.