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Autonomous and electric vehicles make news at Consumer Electronics Show

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New mobility, autonomous cars, and electric vehicles will again be in focus later this month at the 2017 Portland International Auto Show. Experts and advocates will be at the show to explain and answer questions about these developments at the show's Tech Center, open from January 26 to 29 at the Oregon Convention Center.


PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Toyota's Concept-i prototype electric autonomous car was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Toyota and other automakers expect to offer vehicles with increasing autonomous capabilities in the next three years. 
LAS VEGAS (January 5, 2017) – The annual Consumer Electronics Show is the largest convention of any kind in Las Vegas, and in recent years the week-long show features far more than cameras, music players, and gaming consoles. Every major automaker in the world is here, and this year they are all talking about self-driving cars. Volkswagen, Toyota and Honda all unveiled concept prototypes of autonomous electric cars at the show this year.

Volkswagen showed their concept I.D., a vehicle built on the German automaker's Modular Electric Drive platform. Executives stated that the I.D. in production form would travel between 249 and 373 miles on a charge. One of the most talked-about features of the Volkswagen I.D. is that the steering wheel retracts into the dashboard when the car is in autonomous mode. VW executives projected a "fully autonomous" car based on the Modular Electric Drive platform for sale by 2025, and a semi-autonomous car by 2020.

In contrast, Toyota's press conference threw some cold water on such predictions, pointing out that legislation requiring licensed drivers to be in control of cars, and a lack of financial and liability legal structures for autonomous cars could hamper development and adoption. Toyota engineers stressed that under current definitions, autonomous cars are rated at five progressive levels of autonomy, and attaining the highest levels of autonomous operation will be a difficult technical challenge, while lower levels are comparatively easy.

Toyota's Concept-i is an all-electric and autonomous car with science-fiction looks and an in-car Artificial Intelligence named "Yui" that will personalize the car for each driver. The Toyota AI even monitors the driver's vital signs for stress and adjusts the car's behavior accordingly.

"At Toyota, we recognize that the important question isn't whether future vehicles will be equipped with automated or connected technologies," said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota. "It is the experience of the people who engage with those vehicles. Thanks to Concept-i and the power of artificial intelligence, we think the future is a vehicle that can engage with people in return."

Ford announced seven new electrified vehicles that it plans to introduce in the next five years, including hybrid versions of the best-selling F-150 pickup and the Mustang sports coupe, and a fully electric SUV with an expected range of at least 300 miles.

Ford also announced plans to invest $700 million to expand its Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan into a factory that will build high-tech autonomous and electric vehicles along with the Mustang and Lincoln Continental. The expansion will create 700 new jobs.

"Our investments and expanding lineup reflect our view that global offerings of electrified vehicles will exceed gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years," said Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford.

Overall, Ford is investing $4.5 billion in electrified vehicles by 2020, in an effort to offer greater fuel efficiency, capability and power across Ford's global vehicle lineup. The plans are part of Ford's stated plan to become both an auto and a mobility company, with electrified and autonomous vehicles providing new mobility solutions.

"New mobility" is a term covering every form of mobility that is not the traditional driver-owned automobile. Most often, the term is used to describe short-term rental services like Car2Go and ReachNow, both currently operating in Portland. New mobility also includes ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft, which have flourished as fewer city dwellers choose to own cars.

In the future, automakers such as Honda expect that autonomous vehicles may be made available for ride hailing services when not in use by their owners. Honda introduced their latest concept car, called NeuV (pronounced "New-Vee") for New Electric Urban Vehicle, at CES.

The NeuV concept is based on the fact that, on average, privately owned vehicles sit idle 96 percent of the time. The NeuV is designed to create value for its owner by functioning as an automated ride sharing vehicle, driving itself around and carrying customers to local destinations when the owner is not using the car.

"We designed NeuV to become more valuable to the owner by optimizing and monetizing the vehicle's down time," said Mike Tsay, principal designer, Honda R&D Americas.

Honda's Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem exhibit also featured a number of related prototype and concept technology demonstrations. Honda envisions a future where vehicles will communicate with each other and with municipal infrastructure to mitigate traffic congestion and eliminate traffic fatalities.

New mobility, autonomous cars, and electric vehicles will again be in focus later this month at the 2017 Portland International Auto Show. Experts and advocates will be at the show to explain and answer questions about these developments at the show's Tech Center, open from January 26 to 29. Find out more at www.portlandautoshow.com.