CES 2016: Electric and autonomous cars ready to go mainstream

By Adam Balkin, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 07, 2016

This is CES, and not the Detroit or New York International Auto Show, right? Well, you could easily be forgiven for making that mix up this year thanks to the number of new cars being unveiled. 

We are seeing new electric vehicles from Volkswagen, bringing the iconic bus back as an electric. The BUDD-e is designed to go almost 400 miles on a charge.

Chevy’s Bolt, a 2017 production car, is being billed as the first truly affordable electric vehicle at around $30,000.

“Soon, you’ll be able to step up to the Bolt EV, which is an electric car with a 200-mile range,” Chevy’s Josh Tavel says. “You can still go further than that. You can DC fast-charge, you can get 90 miles in 30 minutes."

Autonomous vehicles are also everywhere - cars that will drive themselves. Sound like science fiction? Think again. Audi is trying to be the first to market with an A8 that’ll drive for you in crawling traffic.

“It’s gonna be here, let’s say, in the end of next year - the beginning of ’18," says Thomas Muller of Audi AG.

Volvo, though in a tight race, is promising a Pilot Assist feature in its 2017 model year XC90s and S90s.

“It allows the car to stay within its lane, follow the car in front of you and follow the speed limit up to 80 miles per hour,” says Martin Kristensson of Volvo.

And Kia announced that it has set 2020 as the target for a partially autonomous car.  The Etos, a concept from Switzerland automotive think tank Rinspeed, can be transformed into a totally autonomous vehicle - so much so, it literally pushes the driving away from you in order to bring entertainment closer.

“It’s the first and only car in the world where the steering wheel retracts and it goes back into the dashboard,” says Frank Rinderknecht, CEO of Rinspeed. “At the same time, the displays move towards me so I have a better reading or working distance."

In case that’s not futuristic enough for you, this one comes with its own drone and its own drone landing pad.

Even wilder, developers say its purpose is to run errands for you when stuck in traffic, like picking up those flowers you forgot for your spouse on your anniversary.