CES 2015: Day 2 Report
If you’re just joining us, this is the 4th post in my CES 2015 series. You can see the others here…
- Today my goal was to complete my walkthrough of CES 2015’s Tech East at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Westgate. Yesterday I got through the South and Central Halls at LVCC, so today my goal was to hit the North Hall and the booths at Westgate … after I hit the BMW experience in the South parking lot.
The show floors opened an hour earlier today at 9a, but since I’ve decided that I’m swearing off alarm clocks for this trip I headed down to the LV Monorail station at my hotel about 9:15. The line this morning was WAY longer than yesterday morning, but I was on my way after about 20 minutes. Not too shabby, and way faster than the queues for the bus shuttles or taxies.
Unlike yesterday, I knew exactly where I was going when I got to the convention center and made a B-line straight for the gigantic BMW tent next to the monorail station. And unlike the monorail, there really wasn’t a huge line. They had i8 concepts to show off and some pretty spiffy tech to help you manage your car and plan your day. Ze Germans were friendly and efficient in their demos and their queue management.
In no time I had signed up for a test drive and was escorted out to the lot where I got a briefing on BMW’s new i3 all-electric hatchback. I even got a demo of autonomous driving integration where you could summon your car to you with a smartwatch. This thing is like a mini Bat Mobile!
The vehicle I was escorted to was a copper/brown i3 (not shown – obviously – I trust you to find a picture online if you’re really interested). I’m a big guy; it’s a small car. I was prepared for the worst. I remembered to at least slide the driver’s seat all the way back before trying to sit down, but once I did get it in I was shocked to discover I had plenty of room. I even scooted the seat up just a tad. The seat was comfortable and supportive in the right ways, and didn’t pinch my sides like some car brands like to do (I’m looking at you, Subaru). I wouldn’t want to sit in the i3 for several hours on a road trip, but then again that’s not the target for this car.
The vehicle is 100% electric – no gas engine for recharging or hybrid mode. You plug this puppy in and it provides ~80 miles of range on a full charge. You can charge it from a regular wall outlet or from a high-powered charging station. I’ve got a ~25 mile one-way commute so in theory I would do fine on my regular daily commutes. Days when I need to make multiple trips for kids’ activities or multiple services at church would be a stretch and would require making sure I had an outlet handy mid-day to top off. An annoyance, but hey – I’m more than happy to have Microsoft pay to charge my car while it’s in the parking deck. 😉 Note, according to BMW’s website there is an extended range model that gives you 150 miles. If I was buying one I’d spring for that one ($46K base versus $41K base MSRP).
Unlike the original Prius, which confused me so much when I first got one as a rental down at LAX that I had to search the Hertz lot for an attendant to tell me how to start the damn car, the i3’s interface is very intuitive. A simple start/stop button and gear selector sits on the right-stalk area of the wheel column. The wheel itself is nice and open so visibility and accessibility to these critical controls is not a problem. The navigation interface is beautiful, as is the center display. The rest of the dash is minimalistic but smartly designed, made of composite and recycled materials.
The whole care is actually made of composites and recycled stuff. The car feels properly firm and stiff when driven, but even with the batteries it weighs just 2700 pounds according to Jeff, my helpful BMW minder. The drive train also makes heavy use of regenerative braking to return as much kinetic energy into stored go-juice as it possibly can. I used to drive Ford’s Fusion Hybrid, which also used regenerative braking – but only when you actually pressed the brake pedal. With the i3 braking happens as soon as you take your foot off the gas. It’s noticeable and requires you to slightly modify your driving style to get used to it (i.e. keep your foot on the “gas” just a little bit if you want to coast). The cool thing is, though, that when you do lift off the go pedal the brake lights go on, so it’s not like you’re surprising the car behind you. In the stop-and-go traffic in the loop they let me drive around the LVCC complex on city streets I found myself rarely needing to actually step on the brake pedal.
I also found myself leaving significant distance between myself and the car ahead so I could drop the hammer on the i3’s powerhouse and see what happens. What happens is an instant response that throws you back in your seat. I didn’t have enough open road to go too fast, and to be sure we’re not talking about M-series acceleration, but it was FUN! As I told my wife, she’d love it – but probably nuke the battery after just a few miles. She loves putting her vehicle to the paces. I enjoyed being let loose with the car on my own and not having be chatted up by anyone. I guess BMW figures there’s not much risk of anyone getting too far with limited range. 🙂
If you want some more info on the i3 here’s a great CNET article from here CES 2015 entitled “I tried and failed to crash a BMW i3 at CES”.
After the drive I checked out BMW’s demo tent of their new Laserlight headlight system. Using friggin’ laser beams and OLED lights on a M4 concept vehicle, plus a fancy 3-sided projection space and a spinning platform for the car, BMW demonstrated how the Laserlight system automatically enables a high-beam mode once the vehicle reaches 45 mph (and it’s dark out, of course) that extends visibility out to nearly 2000 feet (600 meters for ze Germans in the audience). My first reaction was “I can’t wait to get blinded by that”, but then they demonstrated how the vehicle senses cars ahead and oncoming and dynamically reshapes the headlight beams to NOT blast your fellow drives off the road. COOL! It can also sense animals or pedestrians on the side of the road and “highlight” them so you know they’re there, and they know you can see them. There are a few other really nifty forward-looking features up front, and they spent some time to show off fancy OLED brake and turn signal units in the rear, making them dance and animate. Eh – that one seemed more gimmicky to me, but whatever. I’m sure some will love it, assuming the DOT approves it. For more info on the light demo read this.
Disclaimer – I got a free gift after the i3 test drive; an i8 concept wireless mouse. I would have written all this without it, but I want to be open about the “kick back” – even if the design isn’t quite ergonomic. 😉
Okay – BMW was cool, but there’s lots more to see, so let’s go…
I have to call out the awesome traffic managers at LVCC. They put up with lots of stupid and angry drivers, and crazy amounts of pedestrians trying to get to the show from the monorail station. The line of the day goes to one of that crew after one driver decided to not proceed when directed and instead drop someone off in the middle of a driving lane. She decided to let pedestrians go instead and yelled at the driver, “No you have to wait … FOREVER.” The crowd cheered.
The North Hall was just as awesome as the Central hall. I wish I’d done North/Central on the first day rather than running through all of the South Hall. While the North Hall did have a ton if cases and connectors and battery chargers, etc. the booths were WAY nicer and the exhibitors much more interested in talking to people, etc. This was the CES experience I had in my mind (in combination with the big names from the Central Hall).
A few products really caught my eye. Among them was the WeeGo JS6 – a portable backup battery/charger that’s about the size of your smartphone, and doesn’t weigh too much more either. But that small package packs a bug punch. Not only does this 6000 mAh battery pack let you charge your phone or tablet a few times, but it can also JUMP START YOUR CAR. Woah. They’re available already – check out Amazon for this one and it’s big brothers.
I got suckered into the Woosh! screen cleaner booth as well – who can pass up a free cleaning of your phone? A quick spritz and wipe and not only was my phone’s screen clean and disinfected (cool!), but it also had a thin coating of anti-static and anti-fingerprint goodness on it that made the screen not just easier to read throughout the day, but honestly my finger slid on my iPhone’s glass way easier. I’m seriously considering getting a kit from Amazon. Good on phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, glasses, whatever; and it’s non-toxic and ammonia-free so you can feel good about hugging a tree too.
The North Hall also was home to several auto manufacturers and automobile component suppliers looking to sell to both the aftermarket customizers and the big boys themselves. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Ford, VW, Hyundai, and Chevrolet were among the big names, and of course all the speaker companies were luring people to their booths with modified cars and motorcycles.
Yes, that’s a classic mid-60’s Cadillac with a modern V engine dropped in. 🙂
I spent some quality time with Ford checking out their new offerings and giving feedback (PLEASE bring the globally-offered diesel engine option to the North American market Edge SUV!). Ford was pushing their new Sync 3 platform hard, which is great – I like in-car tech. Unfortunately Ford decided to move away from the Microsoft platform even though, in my personal opinion, the Sync 2’s issues were largely due to Ford’s decision to outsource the UI layer to a 3rd party (*cough* Sony *cough*). The new platform has WAY better hardware powering it and seems really snappy and intuitive. It allows you to pinch-zoom and swipe on maps and control apps on your smartphone, something Ford has been promising for quite some time. I talked to someone from the app sync team and he was lauding how they’ve open sourced their API and components to hopefully create a standard platform that developers can leverage across multiple auto platforms. I don’t see this being successful in the light of Apple’s new Car Play and similar tech coming on the Android platform too, so hopefully Ford will quickly work to support those technologies.
I left Ford with a good parting shot when the app sync guy was trying to say that the Microsoft OS was the core problem because it was too “full featured” and not optimized. I interjected a quip that Sony’s shitty UI layer certainly didn’t help either. He couldn’t refute that. I felt better.
I headed over to Westgate but discovered it was really just international vendors selling to international markets. If you thought the edges of the South Hall were the same thing over and over with uninterested booth attendants, the Westgate sections took that to the next level. I did a quick scan but decided to bail after about 10 minutes.
Cool pic of the day … I need one of these for the office.
Celebrity sighting of the day: Nick Cannon. Evidently he’s this years Entertainment Ambassador to CES, whatever that means. Nice suit. I had no idea who he was, and many others were in the same boat. I sent a pic to someone who told me. I inquired why he’s so special, the response was priceless: “He’s like the black Ryan Seacrest.” Got it.
Mission accomplished for the day I decided to head out a bit early and take a bit of an afternoon break on the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel. It brings you to a respectable 550 feet above the strip. I did the London Eye when I was in the UK 7 years ago, and I’ve done the wheel in Seattle too – might as well keep the tradition alive. 🙂
Daily miles walked: 8.8
Total CES 2015 miles so far: 22