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4 tech trends from the Seattle International Auto Show, and why self-driving cars aren’t one

This year, the Seattle International Auto Show will feature more than 700 cars, including many that are not available for purchase yet, like the Jaguar I-PACE and the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature. I previewed the event and spoke to auto expert Tom Voelk about some of the top technology trends in the auto industry. Watch the video above to learn more.

Electric cars

The Jaguar I-PACE is the first all-electric performance SUV from Jaguar. (Photo: Jaguar)

Attendees will be able to test-drive the new Jaguar I-PACE, which is Jaguar’s first all-electric performance SUV. Audi also brought its first all-electric SUV, the Audi e-tron.

“It’s definitely the first time that it’s been seen in the Pacific Northwest, and the Pacific Northwest is a great place for electric cars because a lot of our electricity is produced in a very green way,” Voelk said. “It’s the perfect place to have an electric car.”

Plug-in hybrids

The Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid runs on both battery and gasoline. (Photo: Honda)

If you’re interested in electric cars but are concerned about range, then you might want to look into a plug-in hybrid. Voelk says that buyers tend to overlook this option.

The Chevrolet Volt, for example, can run 50 miles on electric power alone. It also has a gas engine. Voelk himself owns a plug-in hybrid.

“The range of mine is 35 miles,” he said. “I’ve had it for three years now, and I’ve put five tanks of gas in it in those three years.”

Active electronic safety

The new Hyundai Santa Fe features Safe Exit Assist. (Photo: Hyundai)

Voelk says active electronic safety is by far the top technology trend today. This includes auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warnings, and lane keep assist. Some cars at the auto show also have rear seat reminders.

“It’s actually not a very sophisticated technology, but it’s very, very helpful,” Voelk said.

If you put a package or a child in the back seat, for example, the car would produce an alert if you left the car without going into the back seat.

Hyundai has gone one step further with a safety feature that will not allow somebody to open the back door in the path of traffic if a car is coming up from behind. You’ll find this feature in the new Hyundai Santa Fe.

Semiautonomous technology

Although self-driving cars are all the rage, don’t expect to see any at the auto show.

“The reality is that was oversold to people,” Voelk said. “I firmly believe that a true autonomous self driving car that you will be able to buy is years away.”

Voelk added that he understands why people get excited about autonomous vehicles, as they could help people who cannot drive.

“It has to be very, very, very sophisticated because there have been people that have been hurt or killed by the testing, so it is definitely not ready for primetime.” Voelk said.

Semiautonomous vehicles, however, are on the market. Voelk said Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist technology has a very aggressive lane centering system, a good adaptive cruise control and a very good sensing system.

“You can actually take your hands off the wheel easily for 10 to 15 seconds before it starts pestering you to start paying attention and put your hands on the wheel,” he said.

The 2018 Nissan LEAF has ProPILOT Assist, which is Nissan’s semiautonomous technology. (Photo: Nissan)

Looking ahead, you’ll probably see more built-in voice technology in cars in the future.

“It’s in its infancy,” Voelk said. “I know that Mercedes Benz has their new system that is very aggressively set to respond to voice commands.”

Voelk said that voice technology in cars have not been very good because it can be difficult for microphones to pick up commands over road noise.

Alexa is now built in to the center console displays of several auto makers, including BMW, Toyota and Audi. In September, Amazon unveiled its Echo Auto, which lets drivers use Alexa while they are on the road. According to Amazon’s website, this will be available to people only by invitation later this year. The Echo Auto has eight microphones and far-field technology, which helps the device hear voice commands over road noise, music and air conditioning.

The 2018 Seattle International Auto Show runs from Friday, Nov. 9 through Monday, Nov. 12 at CenturyLink Field Event Center. The show is a non-selling environment. You can find more information at seattleautoshow.com.

2018 Seattle International Auto Show schedule:

  • Friday, Nov. 9: 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 10: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 11: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 12: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.


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