DETROIT — Call it the North American International Auto Show
crossed with the International Consumer Electronics Show.
The Intelligent Transport Systems 2014 World Congress has taken
over Detroit’s Cobo Center this week, and parts of it look an awful lot like the famous auto show held every January — sleek, sexy cars,
thumping music, huge video screens with scenes of the open road,
and the occasional spokesmodel.
But elsewhere you see a little more CES — booths featuring hard-core electronics and software, surrounded by earnest nerds wearing the universal uniform of the tech world — company logo shirts and khakis.
Here’s where Detroit and Silicon Valley meet, with hundreds of
vendors showcasing products that may achieve goals as grandiose
as a nation of cars that drive themselves — or as humble as making
your kid’s tablet haul in movies off the Internet from the back seat at
rates that don’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Gov. Rick Snyder visited the show floor and the ITS World Congress
demonstration area on Belle Isle Tuesday, clearly marveling at the
technology on display. One favorite that cracked the governor up —
GM’s self-driving EN-V minicar, based on Segway technology, with a
gas pedal and brake pedal clearly marked with the universal “play”
and “pause” symbols from media players. “The kids will understand
that one right away,” Snyder said to Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO Mike Finney, who accompanied him on the walkthrough.
The show also featured plenty of technologies that will be required on the road to self-driving cars, from cameras to radar to lidar (light
detection and ranging, similar to radar but using light instead of radio waves).
Today’s adaptive cruise control already allows drivers to take their feet off the accelerator and the brake if they choose. Lane departure
warning systems in effect let them take their hands off the wheel, so
long as there’s decent enough paint marking the lanes for the
systems to pick up. Many at the cnnference say it’s not that far from
these systems to at least a limited version of the self-driving car.
Also Tuesday, at Detroit’s NextEnergy Center, a panel of experts
discussed vehicle autonomy, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-
infrastructure communication, and advanced energy management
using electrified vehicles, whether pure EVs or plug-in hybrids with
large batteries. The panel was moderated by Matt Roush, director of
communications and public relations at The Engineering Society of
Michael Duhaime, Chrysler Corp. global director of electrified powertrains, saw a future in which electric vehicles are a key part of a home or office energy system — able to supply power to buildings when needed, and draw power from them to charge up when it’s time to go somewhere.
Indeed, out in the NextEnergy parking lot is a fascinating display called NextHome, in which an energy-efficient small home is connected to solar panels, the grid and a Fiat 500e electric car. Software helps the home’s residents manage their electric use and source efficiently — for example, switching from the grid to solar panels during hypothetical future peak midday rates, and charging the car at night when rates would be lower. The home also features an advanced direct-current sytem. Partners include Champion Homes, Armstrong, Bosch, Coritech Services, the EMerge Alliance, Nextek Power Systems, Toggled, Step Warmfloor and Masco Corp.
Also on the panel, Alessandro Norscia, director of product management at Qualcomm, said it would be four or five years before some of the advanced V2V and V2I technologies started making driving safer and more convenient — for example, alerting drivers to accidents or icy patches on the road ahead.
And NextEnergy president and CEO Jean Redfield said advanced
energy technologies would also be part of the automotive future —
Qualcomm now has a laboratory inside NextEnergy’s incubator space, among other things testing wireless electric vehicle charging by means of a magnetic field.
ITS also featured displays of advanced transportation technologies
on the eastern half of Belle Isle — one of which was born and bred at
NextEnergy, with the help of the Detroit area’s defense industry
resource, the U.S. Army’s Tank-Automotive Research, Development
and Engineering Center, or TARDEC.
Royal Oak-based TM3 Systems has developed advanced power
distribution equipment for off-grid applications. And it announced a
$1.6 million round of funding and several projects from TARDEC.
TM3 has demonstrated its systems at the Marine Corps Experimental Forward Operating Base 2013, the General Dynamics Land Systems Maneuver Collaboration Center and Camp Grayling’s Centennial Celebration. The company has also filed for patent protection and secured its first contracts.
At ITS Detroit 2014, TM3 partnered with Michigan CAT to show how TM3 technology can monitor, control and efficiently distribute power to the Belle Isle demonstrations from a variety of types nad sizes of generators.
TM3 president Nate Lowery said his company’s equipment has broad applications in the civilian world, including recovery from natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, when many generators need to be managed to help recovery efforts.
ITS World Congress continues through Thursday. As many as 10,000 attendees from auto companies, governments, academia and the tech industry are expected to attend at least part of the event.
The event also featured in competitions for 1,000 Michigan high
school and college students, including ground-up connected and
electric vehicle building contests and races, as well as custom app
development at the Road Code Challenge.