Quick Hits From The Detroit Auto Show

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DETROIT — We’re not quite at the flying cars point of  “The Jetsons,” but would anyone really be surprised  at this point? Even theirs weren’t controlled by smart  watches.

At the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS),  held here Jan. 12-25, and at International CES  in Las Vegas earlier this month, autonomous driving  in all of its forms is so prevalent that the idea is no  longer deemed outrageous. While Mercedes and Audi  previewed concept cars for the luxury consumer (with  one able to be navigated by a smart watch), Ford CEO  Mark Fields said the automaker plans to price its driving-  automation features low enough so they’re found  in all cars.

Enough auto technology news broke from the two  shows to fill an entire issue of TWICE, but here are just  five of the highlights:

1 Verizon said it is getting into the telematics  business.

The carrier announced Verizon Vehicle, a diagnostic  and roadside assistance subscription program.  An OBD reader plugs into a car’s OBD port (Verizon  said it is DIY installation), and built-in GPS provides  assistance and emergency services, stolen-vehicle  tracking, and vehicle-diagnostic updates and service  reminders. Updates are sent in near real time to a cellphone  via text, email or push notification appearing on  an optional app.

Verizon said it will be compatible with nearly every  vehicle made and sold in the U.S. since 1996. The service  will be available initially through VerizonVehicle.com and (800) 711-5800 but will roll out through nationwide  retailers late in 2015.

2 Chevrolet is bringing electric to the  masses.

The automaker lifted the veil on the Bolt EV concept,  an electric vehicle that will start at $30,000. Noted  General Motors CEO Mary Barra: “The Bolt EV concept  is a game-changing electric vehicle designed for  attainability, not exclusivity. Chevrolet believes electrification  is a pillar of future transportation and needs to  be affordable for a wider segment of customers.”

The Bolt EV will be able to travel more than 200  miles on a charge, with modes available for different  driving styles (commuting vs. cruising, for example).

3 Honda knows if you’re going to crash  before you do.

Summoning “Minority Report,” Honda’s predictive  cruise control technology uses a camera and radar to  sense other cars on the road, while algorithms predict  the likelihood of them cutting in to the lanes. Although  technology already exists that can judge the distance  between a car and the one in front of it, Intelligent  Adaptive Cruise Control (i-ACC) is able to compute  the likelihood of a cut-in up to five seconds before it  occurs, said Honda, and will react without startling the  driver.

The brakes will initially apply mildly, said Honda.  An icon will appear to notify the driver, and a stronger  break will then be applied.

The technology will initially be available in Europe  (and is reportedly able to judge the side of the road  one should be driving on).

4 Eco-friendliness is a lot closer.

Toyota showed its first hydrogen fuel cell car during CES, and it wants others to join suit. In a sharp  contrast to the patent wars so prevalent in the CE industry,  Toyota announced it will give manufacturers  and parts suppliers the opportunity to use its 5,680  hydrogen-related patents royalty-free until 2020, while  70 patents regarding fuel production and supply will  be royalty-free indefinitely.  The 2016 Mirai is set to debut in October.  Meanwhile, Honda said its FCV Concept fuel-cell  car will be available in 2016. It also said it will have new  battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2018.

5 Local Motors 3D-printed a car.

Live at NAIAS, tech manufacturer Local Motors  printed and assembled the Strati, a car made of ABS  plastic. The process takes about 44 hours, according  to Local Motors, and this was not the first time the  company had completed such a feat: It also printed  cars at the SEMA and IMTS shows last fall. The Strati  seats two and can travel up to about 45 mph, a company  spokeswoman said.

A factory in National Harbor, Md., is set to break  ground in the third quarter, with the first line of 3Dprinted  cars expected to ship “shortly thereafter.” —  Additional reporting by Joseph Palenchar

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