Self-driving cars, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto take over CES 2015

It was a stunning CES for automotive tech, with major advances in self-driving car technology being shown off by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and a number of automotive suppliers. In addition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will connect with your favorite phone in many cars.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
3 min read

Watch this: CNET's Connected Car panel explores the future of transportation at CES

LAS VEGAS -- It all started on the Sunday before the 2015 International CES, when Audi sent an A7-based research model on a self-driving journey from the San Francisco Bay Area to Las Vegas. That night, Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia, took the stage at a press conference. Instead of talking about gaming hardware as he had in years past, he took a deep dive into the possibilities of Nvidia's new Drive CX and Drive PX computers, which power cabin and self-driving systems.

The car realized its potential as the fastest-growing mobile electronics platform at CES 2015.

According to Audi executives, the A7 made it to Las Vegas on Monday without incident, and was put on display in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It joined cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler. BMW showed that its i3 electric car could find a parking space by itself and keep a driver from hitting obstacles. Hyundai and Volkswagen also showed how their cars could park themselves.

Watch this: Cars of the future won't need drivers

On the road to fully self-driving cars, it seems that self-parking may be the next big innovation. As shown at CES 2015, you would pull up to a parking garage entrance, then get out of your car and send it to find a parking place. When you left the restaurant, theater or office, you would summon the car, and it would be waiting for you in a special pickup zone in front of the garage.

Self-driving technology from automotive suppliers Delphi and Valeo at CES 2015 suggest that current adaptive cruise control systems may soon add self-steering, so drivers can let the car take over in stop-and-go traffic and on long highway runs. Delphi even showed the full capabilities of its self-driving technology in an urban environment, but that likely won't hit production for many years.

Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion
Mercedes-Benz brought its vision for the car of 2030, the F 015 Luxury in Motion concept, to CES 2015. Josh Miller/CNET

Mercedes-Benz's F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle, unveiled at CES 2015, showed the German automaker combining self-driving, advanced electronics in the cabin and a clean-energy drivetrain in its prediction for what a car might be like in 2030. You can't accuse Mercedes-Benz of being short-sighted.

Cabin tech improvements included the unveiling of the Virtual Cockpit cabin Audi designed for the next generation of its Q7 SUV. That Virtual Cockpit included implementations of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, letting drivers mirror their phones on the car's LCD.

The cars of CES 2015 (pictures)

See all photos

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto signs were in abundance around the Las Vegas Convention Center's North Hall, the domain of automotive electronics. Hyundai was showing off a new low-end head unit supporting both features, which will appear in its least expensive cars. And if you are not ready to buy a new car, aftermarket stereo makers Parrot, Pioneer and JVC Kenwood had systems supporting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Another trend in cabin electronics seems to be gesture control. BMW gave CNET a peek at what a future gesture-controlled iDrive system would look like, and Volkswagen unveiled its Golf R Touch concept car, showing off an array of gesture-controlled features.

Unlike the many makers of personal and home electronics at CES, automakers and equipment suppliers tend to focus less on product announcements and more on future tech. At CES, we get to see what the car of tomorrow can do. See all of CNET's car tech coverage of CES 2015 here.

Kenwood DDX9902S aftermarket head unit
The Kenwood DDX9902S aftermarket head unit lets you add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to existing cars. Antuan Goodwin/CNET