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New Technologies from the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

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Every year the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) brings a smile to my face. I remember in past years seeing 3D TVs and touch panel displays, just a few of the items I get all giddy about. This year, however, I got excited about a new technology that Audi is developing for the 2013 models.

Every year we see new and easier ways to deliver information to a driver. The newest addition to the A3 model is touchpad technology, which eliminates the need for traditional buttons and knobs to control music, telephone, radio, navigation, and other media.

While this may not seem like “new technology,” it is much more convenient than the current setup where you have to use a dial to manually insert each letter of an address. The major changes are the inclusion of what they are calling a Multi-Media Extension board. They are putting an NVIDIA graphics processor into the display to show 3D animations on a ultra thin display. This allows them to integrate Google Earth, Google street views, and iPhone cradles in the armrests to boost the phone’s signal and keep the Internet connection from cutting out.

While all of that is very cool, the thing that blew me away was their new system called the “Traffic Jam Assistant.” When activated, the car realizes you are in bumper-to-bumper traffic and takes over complete control of the steering, acceleration, and brakes. This immediately brought to mind the scenes from iRobot with Will Smith and Minority Report with Tom Cruise, which showed cars driving themselves from destination to destination. I remember watching those movies and thinking that it would never happen in my lifetime. I was wrong …

The system uses front-mounted adaptive cruise control sensors combined with wide-angle video cameras. These two devices will detect lane markings, other vehicles, barriers, and pedestrians, and can control the vehicle safely in those parameters up to 38mph. Apparently there are also eight ultrasonic sensors to keep tabs on what's going on to the front and the side of you. And not just for what’s happening right in front of you, but also up to several cars ahead of you.

Would you allow a car to drive itself in a bumper-to-bumper situation? How much is too much when it comes to technology in our cars?

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